The letter, co-ordinated by Labour’s David Lammy and Seema Malhotra, accuses the government of keeping “not only parliament but the public in the dark” and says failure to disclose the advice is preventing MPs from holding ministers to account.
The Department for Exiting the EU has refused even to confirm which sectors have been looked into in the impact assessments, only responding that impact studies will be published “shortly” and in “due course”, the letter says.
“Leaving the European Union will have a huge impact on our economy for generations to come,” says the letter, signed by Labour, Liberal Democrat and SNP MPs. “We believe it is important that there is a full and frank debate about the impact of Brexit on our economy, jobs, trade and living standards and what can be done to mitigate risks. That is only possible if analysis of the impact of Brexit is published.”
Lammy, the MP for Tottenham, said the lack of public scrutiny of the reports suggested something untoward. “We have to wonder what exactly the government are hiding in refusing to publish these reports,” he said.
“Parliament and the public have a right to know what analysis the government has done on the impact of Brexit, particularly if this analysis reveals that a hard Brexit will be a disaster for our economy, jobs, trade and living standards.”
Malhotra, a former shadow Treasury minister, said it was a sign of a government “desperate to avoid scrutiny and seeking to bypass parliament and the public”. She said publication was “clearly in the national interest”.
The signatories to the letter include the Lib Dem leader, Vince Cable, and Labour frontbenchers including the shadow environment secretary, Sue Hayman, and the shadow police minister, Louise Haigh. The Green party co-leader Caroline Lucas has also signed.
Over the weekend Theresa May faced pressure to publish separate legal advice that is believed to say parliament could revoke article 50 before March 2019 if MPs judge that it is in the national interest.
Ministers have so far said the formal notification of departure from the EU is irreversible and MPs will be given a choice only between accepting whatever deal is on offer, however damaging, or no deal at all.
The pressure to publish the advice on article 50 was sparked by a letter from Jessica Simor, a prominent QC, who wrote to May asking her to release the advice under the Freedom of Information Act.
Simor said she had been told by “two good sources” that the prime minister had been advised the article 50 notification could be withdrawn, resulting in the UK remaining in the EU on its current favourable terms.
Any advice that stated the notification was reversible would be consistent with the view of John Kerr, a peer who was involved in the drafting of article 50, who has said the UK could reverse its decision during the two-year period.
Tulip Siddiq, the Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, who is Simor’s local MP, has written to May after Simor’s article for the Observer, saying it is in the public interest for the advice to be made public.
Siddiq was among several Labour MPs who pressed the prime minister to release the advice during questions after May’s statement to parliament on Monday on the progress of the Brexit negotiations. May told Siddiq: “The position is very clear: the British people voted in a referendum to leave the EU.”
Siddiq said the option of revoking article 50 could buy more time for negotiations if the UK looked as if it was heading for a no deal scenario, as well as giving those campaigning against a hard Brexit “something to fight for” if there was a chance the UK could perform an about-turn.
“Nobody could have expected that the PM, who herself campaigned to remain, would have the audacity to keep legal advice from the public which could give the green light to pausing the Brexit process before it does irreparable damage to our economy,” Siddiq said.
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