Brexit lobby meetings

Vicky Cann made this Freedom of Information request to Department for Exiting the European Union

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was refused by Department for Exiting the European Union.

Dear Department for Exiting the European Union,

I would like to request the minutes of all meetings held, since its creation, by DEXEU ministers with the following organisations:
HSBC
Rolls Royce
PWC
Barclays
CBI
BP
KPMG
Standard Life
GSK
Prudential
BT
Caterpillar
Mitsubishi

I would additionally like a list of the names of the individuals who attended the meetings on behalf of these organisations.

Thank you in advance.

Yours faithfully,

Vicky Cann

DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox, Department for Exiting the European Union

Dear Vicky Cann,
Thank you for your FOI request, reference DEX000814. We will now respond
in line with the Freedom of Information Act.
Kind regards, 
DExEU FOI Team

Freedom of Information Team

Correspondence Unit

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DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox, Department for Exiting the European Union

Dear Vicky Cann,
We are emailing regarding your FOI request, reference number DEX000814. 
I must inform you that, by virtue of section 14(1) of the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 (FoIA), a public authority is not obliged to comply
with a request for information if the purpose of the request or value of
releasing the information is not clear. Furthermore, guidance from the
Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) allows public authorities to
refuse a request if complying with it would cause "a disproportionate or
unjustifiable level of... disruption" and we believe your request may be a
“fishing expedition” for “information that is noteworthy or otherwise
useful” I attach a copy of the Commissioner’s guidance on this issue for
your information:
[1]https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio...
  
Although we are not required to carry out a public interest test in
relation to section 14(1), we have considered whether your request could
have sufficient purpose or value and whether using vital departmental
resources to respond to such a request meets an objective wider public
interest. Due to the amount of information in scope of your request and
our duty under FoIA to conduct a reasonably thorough search, we find that
searching, sifting, and collating all relevant information would result in
a disproportionate amount of disruption to respond to your request. 
DExEU is committed to transparency and regularly publishes information
about Ministerial meetings in our quarterly transparency data, which
relates to your request. I have included a link to our most recent
publication, which lists all Ministerial meetings with external
organisations. 
[2]https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/sy...
 
We welcome any comments you may have regarding the purpose behind your
request and any wider value or public interest you believe it may hold. We
are also willing to help you frame a valid request, if you wish to do so.
In the meantime, I shall take no further action on this request. 
Kind regards,
DExEU FOI Team

Freedom of Information Team

Correspondence Unit

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Dear DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox,

Thank you for your answer.

This list of organisations I provided was not random, nor was it part of a "fishing expedition". It was constructed using the online data of DEXEU ministerial meetings and the list reflects the organisations with the most meetings with DEXEU ministers over the past 9 months or so. I find it surprising and rather concerning that you will not process this request for the following reasons:

- the timeframe of the request was clear ie. since the creation of DEXEU, Summer 2016
- the subjects are clearly identified and I have (above) given you a rationale as to why I am interested in these organisations
- the documents relate to meetings listed in DEXEU's own published data so it should be straight-forward for DEXEU to identify the requested documents
- finally, the work of DEXEU concerns Brexit. It goes without saying that there is a high level of public interest in this issue. It is very reasonable to ask for the minutes of these meetings, when these organisations are such frequent visitors to DEXEU ministers' offices.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours faithfully,

Vicky Cann

Dear DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox,

Further to my message to you of 29 November, when will I receive a reply?

Yours sincerely,

Vicky Cann

Dear DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox,

Once again, I would like to ask you when I will receive an acknowledgement and reply to my email of 29 November?

Yours sincerely,

Vicky Cann

DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox, Department for Exiting the European Union

Dear Vicky Cann, 

Thank you for your email. We apologise for the delay in getting back to
you.
We are grateful for your further clarification regarding the purpose of
your request. However, we still maintain that section 14(1) applies to
your request. Aside from the purpose of the request, the issue remains
that we would be unable to apply section 12 (where the cost of compliance
exceeds the appropriate limit), but that we still find that "a
disproportionate or unjustifiable level of... disruption" would be caused
by your request, not alone in the search and collation of the information,
but also in the consideration of any potential exemptions or redactions
(which is recognised as a valid reason for the application of section
14). 
If you would like to limit your request at this stage to specific meetings
that have taken place (with dates), we would be happy to re-review your
request. Ministerial meetings can be found in our [1]transparency returns.
Kind regards, 
DExEU FOI Team

Freedom of Information Team

9 Downing Street | London | SW1A 2AG
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Dear DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox,

Further to your reply to my FOI request DEX000814, as suggested, I would like to see the minutes and the attendance lists of all the meetings listed below. Please note that this data is taken from the DEXEU lists of ministerial meetings covering October 2016-June 2017. Some meetings listed in the DEXEU list have a date subsequent to this range ie. November 2017. I assume that these are mistakes made by the staff compiling the lists and that the actual date of such meetings were 2016 and not 2017. I say this so as to help you to pinpoint the minutes of the meetings as easily as possible.

I look forward to receiving the information urgently.

Yours sincerely,

Vicky Cann

1. Robin Walker MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Oct-16 City of London
2. Lord Bridges of Headley MBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Oct-16 City of London
3. Robin Walker MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Oct-16 Barclays
4. Robin Walker MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Oct-16 City UK
5. Rt Hon David Davis MP, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Oct-16 CityUK
6. Lord Bridges of Headley MBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Oct-16 Hermes Investment management
7. Lord Bridges of Headley MBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Oct-16 HSBC Holdings PLC
8. Rt Hon David Davis MP, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Nov-16 Arbuthnot Banking Group Plc
9. Robin Walker MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Nov-16 Goldman Sachs
10. Robin Walker MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Nov-16 Lloyds
11. Rt Hon David Davis MP, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Nov-16 Lloyds Bank
12. Robin Walker MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Nov-16 Marshall Wace
13. Robin Walker MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Nov-16 Morgan Stanley
14. Rt Hon David Davis MP, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Dec-16 Arbuthnot Banking Group Plc
15. Robin Walker MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Dec-16 Bank of America Merrill Lynch
16. Robin Walker MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Dec-16 British Bankers Association
17. Rt Hon David Davis MP, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Dec-16 Financial Services Roundtable: Santander, Lloyds of London, Aviva Life, HSBC, QBE Europe, Barclays, TheCityUK, M&G Securities, Blackrock UK, Goldman Sachs, London Stock Exchange Group
18. Robin Walker MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Dec-16 HSBC
19. Lord Bridges of Headley MBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Dec 2017 Financial Services Negotiation Forum [Legatum]
20. Lord Bridges of Headley MBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Dec 2017 Bank of America Merrill Lynch
21. Lord Bridges of Headley MBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Dec 2017 HSBC
22. Lord Bridges of Headley MBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Nov 2017 Blackstone Group
23. Lord Bridges of Headley MBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Nov 2017 Ernst and Young
24. Lord Bridges of Headley MBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Nov 2017 Goldman Sachs International
25. Lord Bridges of Headley MBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Nov 2017 Marshall Wace Asset Management Ltd
26. Lord Bridges of Headley MBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Nov 2017 Odey Asset Management
27. Lord Bridges of Headley MBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Apr-17 Legatum Institute
28. Rt Hon David Jones MP, Minister of State for Exiting the European Union Apr-17 Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Barclays and HSBC
29. Lord Bridges of Headley MBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Feb-17 Legatum Institute
30. Robin Walker MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Feb-17 Policy Exchange Business Forum
31. Rt Hon David Jones MP, Minister of State for Exiting the European Union Feb-17 The City UK
32. Robin Walker MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Feb-17 The City UK
33. Robin Walker MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Mar-17 Asset Management Roundtable: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/minis... : Allianz Global Investors, Barings Europe, BlackRock Investment Management, HSBC, Independent Franchise Partners, Investec, Investment Association, M&G, Pictet Asset Management, Schroders, Vanguard
34. Robin Walker MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Mar-17 British Bankers' Association
35. Robin Walker MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Mar-17 Goldman Sachs
36. Lord Bridges of Headley MBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union May-17 Cazenove Capital
37. Lord Bridges of Headley MBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union May-17 E&Y
38. Lord Bridges of Headley MBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union May-17 JP Morgan
39. Lord Bridges of Headley MBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union May-17 UBS Investment Bank

DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox, Department for Exiting the European Union

Dear Vicky Cann,

Thank you for your FOI request, reference DEX000989. We will now respond
in line with the Freedom of Information Act.

Kind regards,

DExEU FOI Team

Freedom of Information Team

9 Downing Street | London | SW1A 2AG
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DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox, Department for Exiting the European Union

1 Attachment

Dear Vicky Cann,
Thank you for your FOI request, reference DEX000989. Please find our
attached response.
Kind regards, 
DExEU FOI Team

Freedom of Information Team

9 Downing Street | London | SW1A 2AG
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Dear DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox,

Thank you for your letter dated 7 February 2018. I was surprised and disappointed to read that DEXEU "will not issue any further responses to future requests of this nature and volume".

If the 39 meetings I had listed are too many, are you able to clarify what number of meetings would be acceptable for which I could request the minutes and attendance lists?

Yours sincerely,

Vicky Cann

Dear DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox,

I have not received a reply or acknowledgement of my message sent 9 February. Could you let me know the status of this please?

Yours sincerely,

Vicky Cann

Dear Department for Exiting the European Union,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I would like to request an internal review of DEXEU’s handling of DEX000814 which later became DEX000989.

The history of this request can be found here: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/b...

My request was first made on 13 November 2017 when I requested the minutes of lobby meetings held by Brexit ministers, within a defined timeframe, with a defined set of organisations (13), together with the names of those attending the meetings.

On 29 November 2017, my request was rejected and I was told by DEXEU that my request was a “fishing expedition” and that it would cause a “disproportionate amount of disruption” to respond to it.

On 29 November 2017 I put forward explanations as to why I did not consider that DEXEU’s response was adequate, including providing clarity on the public interest arguments and why I considered that the request was already well-defined.

This reply was only acknowledged on 19 December 2017, at which point I was told “If you would like to limit your request at this stage to specific meetings that have taken place (with dates), we would be happy to re-review your request. Ministerial meetings can be found in our [1]transparency returns.”

On 10 January 2018, and using DEXEU’s own published ministerial meetings data I provided a list of 39 meetings for which I would like to see the minutes and attendance lists. DEXEU accepted this request and it was re-named as DEX000989.

On 7 February 2018 I received a response from DEXEU which refused the information requested and which simply recycled the arguments from the correspondence of 29 November, namely that my request would cause “a disproportionate or unjustifiable level of … disruption” and that DEXEU considers that it was a “fishing expedition”. I was further told that DEXEU “will not issue any further responses to future requests of this nature and volume”.

On 9 February 2018 I asked DEXEU to clarify what number of meetings would be acceptable for which I could request the minutes and attendance lists. This was neither acknowledged nor responded to. A follow up email sent on 9 March was also ignored.

I consider that DEXEU’s handling of this request has been inadequate for several reasons:

- From the start of this process, I have been serious about trying to secure the requested information from DEXEU about these meetings. Corporate Europe Observatory has published previous articles about Brexit, including the lobby meetings that UK ministers are holding with corporate lobby groups. There is obvious and significant public interest, not just in Brexit per se, but in the matter of who might be influencing the development of government posistions on Brexit, as evidenced by the media coverage, for example:
https://www.theparliamentmagazine.eu/art...
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/pol...
Afterall, lobbying has long been seen as requiring far greater transparency, and there is an enormous and long-standing public interest in the disclosure of lobbying activities that seek to influence the policy of the UK.

- Moreover, when my initial request was refused, I responded with clarifications, explanations and then a revised request, as I had been invited to do. Yet even though I followed DEXEU’s advoice and provided a precise list of meetings, this too was rejected and I was further told that “we will not issue any further responses to future requests of this nature and volume”.

- I consider that the approach of DEXEU indicates that it has not engaged seriously with my requests. The advice DEXEU has given has been too general. I was told that “any future requests should be significantly narrowed in scope” but no advice was provided as to what would be acceptable in terms of numbers of meetings. Without such specific advice, a lot more time could be wasted in trying to clarify what that narrowing would look like. Additionally, it has repeatedly told me that my request was a “fishing expedition” and indeed it argued this from the start, but without justification or substantiation.

- Furthermore, I find it strange that DEXEU does not organise its data in a way which makes such a request easy to handle. If DEXEU is able to collate a list of meetings held by ministers on a quarterly basis in order to publish it, why is it not possible to easily identify the minutes for those meetings? As previously stated, there is significant public interest in these matters, and I would have thought it would be in the public interest, in the interest of transparency, and in the interest of efficient administration that the minutes of meetings which ministers hold, with external stakeholders are easily retrievable.

- As I was told on 9 February that DEXEU “will not issue any further responses to future requests of this nature and volume” and subsequent emails have not received a response , I feel I have little choice but to submit this internal review. I remain highly interested in receiving information regarding the content of lobby meetings held by DEXEU ministers but DEXEU appears unwilling to cooperate.

Many thanks for receiving my application, I await your response within 20 days.

Yours faithfully,

Vicky Cann

DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox, Department for Exiting the European Union

Dear Vicky Cann, 
This email confirms that we have received your internal review request on
FOI DEX000989. The Department will now conduct an internal review and will
contact you once this has been concluded.
Kind regards, 
DExEU FOI team

Freedom of Information Team

9 Downing Street | London | SW1A 2AG
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DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox, Department for Exiting the European Union

1 Attachment

Dear Vicky Cann,
Please find attached our Internal Review response to FOI request ref:
DEX000989.
Kind regards,
FOI Team

Freedom of Information Team

9 Downing Street | London | SW1A 2AG
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References

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2. mailto:[DEEU request email]

Dear DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox,

Thank you for the response to my complaint.

Considering that the complaint found that "The Department has not provided adequate advice and
assistance to aid you in making a request as required under the section 16 obligation...", might I now ask for clarity as to how many meeting minutes I can request and what further information should accompany them?

Yours sincerely,

Vicky Cann

DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox, Department for Exiting the European Union

Dear Vicky Cann, 
Thank you for your email regarding narrowing your request. 
There is a paragraph in the response which suggests how to refine your
request by giving an example of meetings with two organisations in the
specific timeframe that we may be able to deal with. We suggest you use
that example to formulate a new request. We cannot choose the meetings for
you, but we suggest this as a way to manage your request. 

"If you are able to refine your request further, by asking for the minutes
and attendance lists of groups of meetings held with specific
organisations, for example there are two meetings listed with Goldman
Sachs and two meetings with Arbuthnot Banking Group within the timeframe
of your request, this would make retrieval and consultation manageable."

Kind regards, 

DExEU FOI Team

Freedom of Information Team

9 Downing Street | London | SW1A 2AG
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Dear DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox,

Thank you for the reply. I had of course seen that paragraph. As I think was clear, I was asking for clarity on the maximum number of meetings' minutes that I can ask for. The paragraph implies it is four, but I would like clarity on that as four seems extremely low considering the threshold of £600 and the fact that the meetings will all involve named ministers which presumably makes data retrieval that much easier.

Yours sincerely,

Vicky Cann

DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox, Department for Exiting the European Union

Dear Vicky Cann, 
We cannot determine how many can be submitted within the cost limit,
however, as a guideline, may we suggest a maximum of 6. 
Kind regards, 
DExEU FOI Team

Freedom of Information Team

9 Downing Street | London | SW1A 2AG
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Dear DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox,

Thanks for the reply. I would like to request the minutes of the following meetings, plus a list of who attended each one. This information is taken from DEXEU's list of meetings and I assume that TheCityUK, City UK, and The City UK all refer to the same organisation.

Robin Walker Sep-17 TheCityUK
Robin Walker Sep-17 UK Finance
Robin Walker Oct-16 City UK
Rt Hon David Davis MP Oct-16 CityUK
Rt Hon David Jones MP Feb-17 The City UK
Robin Walker MP Feb-17 The City UK

I look forward to receiving the minutes.

Thanks in advance. Yours sincerely,

Vicky Cann

DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox, Department for Exiting the European Union

Dear Vicky Cann,

Thank you for your FOI request, reference DEX001216. We will now respond
in line with the Freedom of Information Act.

Kind regards,

DExEU FOI Team

Freedom of Information Team

9 Downing Street | London | SW1A 2AG
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DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox, Department for Exiting the European Union

1 Attachment

Dear Vicky Cann,
Thank you for your FOI request, reference DEX0001212. Please find our
attached extension.
Kind regards, 
DExEU FOI Team

Freedom of Information Team

9 Downing Street | London | SW1A 2AG
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DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox, Department for Exiting the European Union

1 Attachment

Dear Vicky Cann,
Thank you for your FOI request, reference DEX0001212. Please find our
attached extension.
Kind regards, 
DExEU FOI Team

Freedom of Information Team

9 Downing Street | London | SW1A 2AG
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E: [2][DEEU request email]  

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DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox, Department for Exiting the European Union

1 Attachment

Dear Vicky Cann,

Thank you for your FOI request, reference DEX001216. Please find our
attached response. We apologise for the delay in issuing your final
response.

Kind regards,

DExEU FOI Team 

Freedom of Information Team

9 Downing Street | London | SW1A 2AG
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Dear Department for Exiting the European Union,

I am writing to request an internal review of DEXEU’s handling of DEX001216. My attempts to gain access to minutes of lobby meetings held by DEXEU ministers initially started on 13 November 2017 and are documented above, and on this link: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/b...

On the advice of DEXEU provided on 11 May 2018, I requested the minutes and attendance lists for the following lobby meetings held by DEXEU ministers:

Robin Walker Sep-17 TheCityUK
Robin Walker Sep-17 UK Finance
Robin Walker Oct-16 City UK
Rt Hon David Davis MP Oct-16 CityUK
Rt Hon David Jones MP Feb-17 The City UK
Robin Walker MP Feb-17 The City UK

On 6 August 2018, I was informed that for 5 of the 6 above meetings held, no minutes were held by DEXEU. I must say that I find it very concerning that when ministers meet with corporate lobby groups, no minutes are held of their interactions. I would be interested to know if it is common practice in DEXEU to not minute such meetings.

I was further informed that for the 6th meeting, Robin Walker, 6th September 2017 TheCityUK, that while minutes do exist for this, the information was being withheld under section 27 and section 35 of the Act.

I disagree that under Section 35, the “public interest favours withholding the information we hold within the scope of your request over releasing”. DEXEU argues that “It is vital within negotiations that there can be the exchange of views on available options/scenarios freely and openly, and that these can be discussed and potential implications understood, especially on live issues.”

But this opportunity to exchange views with DEXEU is only available to a relatively small number of organisations. As work by Corporate Europe Observatory and Global Justice Now has shown, access to ministers during the Brexit negotiations has been strongly dominated by corporate interests, while NGOs and trade unions, let alone citizens, have not had anything like the level of access enjoyed by business interests. In this context, it seems especially important that when corporate interests secure access to ministers, and do so often on a regular basis, that there is transparency rather than secrecy about what is discussed, so that there can be an assessment about whether or not such corporate interests are having excessive influence on the eventual positions of the government. Such transparency is necessary for the accountability of ministers and the wider government. Arguably, the publication of such minutes could also lead to greater input into DEXEU from a wider range of groups than is presently the case, which can only be a positive development.

Under Section 27, DEXEU argues “we find that avoiding disclosure of any documentation which is likely to prejudice the promotion or protection by the UK of its interests in the context of the withdrawal negotiations, is in in the public interest.”

However, I consider that this misrepresents the information that lobbyists will share. The interests of corporate lobbyists should not be conflated with the national interests of the UK, and while corporate lobbyists might express certain wishes or demands, surely this should not be taken by anyone as an automatic expression of the views of the UK government. As expressed above I would hope that the UK government would proactively listen to a wide range of different stakeholders, on a wide range of Brexit issues, and the disclosure of the views of individual lobbyists would not, in and of itself, prejudice the promotion or protection by the UK of its interests.

DEXEU further argues that “In addition, there is a strong public interest in the protection of any information which may give insight to/undermine the UK’s negotiations with the EU or adversely affect the UK’s national interests.” It is not clear to me why DEXEU argues this. Why would the disclosure of minutes of ministerial meetings with corporate lobbyists undermine the UK’s negotiations, unless of course ministers were either revealing information to lobbyists that is not in the public domain, or making commitments to lobbyists. Either or both cases only strengthen the arguments that such privileged access to information is made public.

In short, I disagree with your refusal to release the 1 minute that relates to the 6 meetings in questions and I would like DEXEU to review its decision.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours faithfully,

Vicky Cann

DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox, Department for Exiting the European Union

Dear Vicky Cann, 
This email confirms that we have received your internal review request on
FOI DEX001216. The Department will now conduct an internal review and will
contact you once this has been concluded.
Kind regards, 
DExEU FOI team

Freedom of Information Team

9 Downing Street | London | SW1A 2AG
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E: [2][DEEU request email]  

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DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox, Department for Exiting the European Union

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Cann,
Please find attached our response to your request for an Internal Review
(reference DEX001216).
Kind regards,
DExEU FOI Team

Freedom of Information Team

9 Downing Street | London | SW1A 2AG
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E: [2][DEEU request email]  

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