Economic analysis

Chris Cook made this Freedom of Information request to Department for Exiting the European Union

This request has been closed to new correspondence. Contact us if you think it should be reopened.

The request was partially successful.

Dear Department for Exiting the European Union,

Under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act, please could I have a copy of analysis held by the Department which reflects on the economic consequences of Brexit, including analyses of differing regional or sectoral effects and the consequences of different outcomes.

It strikes me that this would, prime facie, be considered "statistical information", under the terms of the Act, and therefore exempt from section 35. For your reference, here is the ICO guidance on this exception from the s35 exemption.

"Statistical information used to provide an informed background to the government policy and decision… will usually be founded upon the outcomes of mathematical operations performed on a sample of observations or some other factual information. The scientific study of facts and other observations allows descriptive approximations, estimates, summaries, projections, descriptions of relationships between observations, or outcomes of mathematical models, etc to be derived.

A distinguishing feature of statistical information is that it is founded to at least some degree on accepted scientific or mathematical principles. Statistical information is therefore distinguished by being: (i) derived from some recorded or repeatable methodology, and (ii) qualified by some explicit or implied measures of quality, integrity and relevance."

It seems implausible that you could mount an argument that it is not in the public interest to publish this information. If, in the coming years, members of the public were to wish to make an investment - and were choosing between, say, London and Wales, it is surely unarguable that it would be in the public interest to release information to guide the decision.

That is certainly the settled view of government in other domains: it is personified in the existence of the ONS and codified in the UK Statistics Authority Code of Practise, of being "truthful and open about the statistics and their interpretation".

Release of this information is unlikely to prejudice the negotiation with the European Union. The full Treasury analysis produced during the referendum campaign already makes it clear that the view of officials is that No Deal would be awful.

Indeed, failure to release such analysis may prejudice the talks. The government position is that it is willing to end the negotiation, and accept "No Deal", but it is unlikely to be a credible threat so long as you are unable to produce any analysis suggesting that you now think a No Deal outcome is a non-disaster.

Yours faithfully,

Chris Cook

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

Dear Chris Cook
Thank you for your FOI request, reference DEX000719. 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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E: [3][DEEU request email]  

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

Dear Chris Cook,
We are emailing regarding your FOI request, reference number DEX000719.

Under section 16 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 ('the Act'),
public authorities can ask for clarification for requests which may
require further information in order to identify and locate the
information requested. 

You request asks for "a copy of analysis held by the Department which
reflects on the economic consequences of Brexit, including analyses of
differing regional or sectoral effects and the consequences of different
outcomes." Whilst we note your reference to regional and sectoral
analysis, because of the all-encompassing scope of the content requested,
your request engages Section 12 of the Act by exceeding the appropriate
staffing cost stipulated to locate and extrapolate the information in
scope. Similarly, "analysis... that reflects on the economic consequences"
covers a variety document types, whether it be correspondence, reports,
presentations or minutes from meetings. In its current wording therefore,
we would have to search every individuals personal and shared drives for
any analysis of the economic consequences of exit.

To bring your request within Section 12 limitations, we recommend that you
give more specifics on the areas that you wish the documents to cover. For
example, you could give a particular economic measurement (i.e. GDP;
Consumer price index; investment; currency; inflation; unemployment rate,
etc.) or any other; you could choose a specific region of the UK; you
could select a specific industry or sector; you could could specify which
potential outcome you wish the document to based on; or you could combine
all of the above. We also suggest that you narrow the type of information
in scope to final drafts of reports or summary documents. An example of a
request that would likely fall within scope would be: "summary reports
that analyse changes to GDP in Scotland in the result of a no deal" or
"final versions of analysis of the various potential outcomes on
fisheries", or "reports that focus on the consequences of a free trade
agreement on Food and Drink sector".

Any further specifics would be very helpful in locating any information we
may hold in scope of your request. 

We will wait until we hear back before taking any 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,

It has been widely reported that David Jones MP has stated, in a letter, that officials had “conducted analysis of over 50 sectors of the economy”.

Please could you supply me with the analysis to which he is referring.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Cook

Dear DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox,

Please note that a list of the documents to which I refer is enclosed here, in a letter from the secretary of state:

https://www.parliament.uk/documents/lord...

Happily, since they've already been defined, identified and indexed, I would be surprised if section 12 really could be engaged.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Cook

Dear DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox,

I thought it worth making a few points, incidentally, since I note you have engaged s22, s27 and s35 in your replies to other people on related requests.

First, I am pleased you have dispensed with s12.

Second, my requests are clearly, as I stated before, "statistical" in nature, so s35 cannot be engaged.

Third, if you wish to engage s22, I will need a clear statement of the intention, and it will need to have existed *prior to my request being made*.

As the ICO says: "The intention to publish must pre-date the request. This means that a public authority cannot, when it receives a request, attempt to give itself more time to provide the information by deciding to publish it in the future rather than provide it within the statutory time limit for answering a request."

Fourth, if you think revealing assessments of the economy are likely to prejudice our ability to negotiate with the EU (s27), I have some terrible news for you about the ONS and Eurostat. They literally publish monthly updates on how things are going. They publish data on exposure of industries to our decision to leave.

Furthermore, I would note that section 27 is a qualified exemption.

If I want to know whether to invest in fisheries or farms in Britain, it is clearly in the public interest that you should disclose which you envisage being the better bet. More investment into potentially successful industries and less into doomed ones is obviously in the public interest.

Furthermore, if it transpires that, for example, officials expect the auto industry would be devastated by leaving the European Union, the public interest in immediate release is much stronger than waiting - because the path dependencies involved in the negotiation are so strong: there are options open now that will not be in 2 years,

In general, the notion that the fact of a negotiation means the evidence underpinning judgments by ministers must be suppressed is obviously utterly bonkers.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Cook

Dear DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox,

This request is now overdue.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Cook

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

1 Attachment

Dear Chris Cook,

Thank you for your FOI request, reference DEX000719. Please find our
attached response. We apologise for the delay in issuing this to you.

Kind regards,

DExEU FOI Team

Freedom of Information Team

9 Downing Street | London | SW1A 2AG
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E: [3][DEEU request email]  

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