The Government's secret Brexit studies

by Good Law Project Limited

The Government's secret Brexit studies

by Good Law Project Limited
Good Law Project Limited
The Good Law Project was founded by Jo Maugham QC and uses the law to deliver a better society.
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Good Law Project Limited
The Good Law Project was founded by Jo Maugham QC and uses the law to deliver a better society.
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Brexit is the most significant challenge facing the UK. Its effects will have consequences for every area of our lives. They will last for generations. Our Government recognises this, and the Department for Exiting the European Union has commissioned studies investigating the potential economic impact in detail.

On 14 December 2016, DExEU minister David Davis told the House of Commons’ Committee on Exiting the EU that “our studies cover 85% of the economy – everything except sectors that are not affected by international trade”. DExEU has promised to publish a list of these studies, shortly but not now. HM Treasury has also produced a report comparing the predicted economic harm of Brexit with the predicted economic benefits of alternative free trade agreements. That report has also not been made public.

We believe we have a right to know what the Government thinks are the economic consequences of leaving the EU. Political elites should not restrict information and deliberately leave us in the dark about the future of our own country. For Brexit to be justified as an expression of democratic will that democratic will must be informed.

We cannot have a real public debate about the terms of our withdrawal from the EU without knowing the full facts. And it’s absolutely essential that MPs have access to these studies to enable them to properly scrutinise government actions and proposals.

We have today written to David Davis MP and the Treasury asking them to disclose the documents. If they do not we will issue judicial review proceedings to seek to compel them. It’s our contention that our own common law obliges them to produce those documents. And so does Article 10(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Government’s stance is that this information will not be released voluntarily. And we cannot wait. We must act quickly to ensure that, if we are to leave the EU, we do so on terms that serve the British people in the best possible way.

The Mechanics

The Claimants will be Molly Scott Cato MEP and the Good Law Project.

We invite you to read the letter to DExEU and HM Treasury here. That letter is the first formal step in the legal process. If this case is funded, we will follow up by issuing judicial review proceedings against DExEU and HM Treasury. 

The form of the challenge has been recognised by the Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights. However, the law in the field is underdeveloped and so the outcome cannot be predicted with certainty. We do, however, have the benefit of advice and representation from probably the leading information law QC and leading information law junior at the Bar: Tim Pitt-Payne QC and Robin Hopkins. They are instructed by Constantine Partasides QC at Three Crowns.

A judicial review action takes place in two stages. First, you need permission from the Court. We are seeking to raise £26,000 to take the case to the permission stage. If we get permission we will then need to prepare for the full hearing. If we hit the first £26,000 target we will seek a further £30,000 for the next stage - the so-called 'stretch target'. 

We anticipate that these sums will be sufficient to take the case to a conclusion in the High Court. There are, however, circumstances in which we may need to ask for more: in particular if the case changes in nature into a much more fact heavy case than we presently anticipate or if we are unable to secure the protection that we presently anticipate against adverse costs.

Tim Pitt-Payne QC and Robin Hopkins are working at heavily discounted rates. And we are grateful to Three Crowns who are providing their services for free.

We anticipate that we will obtain permission. However, if we are wrong, any surplus money raised will be held for other litigation: it will not go into the general funds of the Good Law Project. There are no circumstances in which any monies raised will go to Jo Maugham QC personally and neither he nor Good Law Project will make any charge against these monies in connection with this litigation.

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