The way forward in our case to obtain the Secret Brexit Studies6th March 2018
Back in December we started judicial review proceedings to try and force the Government to publish its secret Brexit studies. We could have taken the obvious route of making an application under the Freedom of Information Act – one pursued by dozens of other applicants without success. Instead we took the novel course of asserting that the common law gave us that right.
We believed then that the Freedom of Information Act procedures were too slow. They would not deliver the secret Brexit studies in time. Our best chance was to pursue this novel route. We are not historians – we do not seek their publication so we can look back at what happened. We are political actors – we want to guide the decisions that lie ahead. When it comes to the national interest we believe blind faith is no substitute for hard evidence.
We took this course with the benefit of formal written advice and representation from the leading information law QC and the leading information law junior in the country. And we secured the benefit of very high quality assistance from Three Crowns LLP.
Today at the High Court we failed to persuade a High Court judge that our novel route had sufficient prospects of success. He accepted the evidence of the Information Commissioner, adopted by the Government, that, in fact, her administration of the Freedom of Information Act could deliver the secret Brexit studies by October. You can read a note of his decision here.
But the reasons why we brought this case have not gone away.
Whatever the route, our destination remains the same. The case is about the right of those affected by Brexit to understand what Brexit means for them. Taking back control for the people, not for a secretive Government to hide vital facts from MPs and the public.
So what we will do is this.
We will pursue the Freedom of Information Act requests made in parallel to these proceedings and rejected by the Government. We will appeal these to the Information Commissioner within days. Let us see whether the Information Commissioner is as good as her word.
We will publish our appeals to the Information Commissioner. And we will publish her representations to the High Court. And we will obtain and we will publish a transcript of today’s hearing. Let the country know what each has said about the speed of the statutory regime.
And so that we can hold her, and the Government’s, feet to the fire, we will appeal today’s High Court decision. If the representations made to the court are accurate we should have decisions on the secret Brexit studies in plenty of time. If, on the other hand, they are founded more in rhetoric than reality – if it turns out that we were right all along that only the common law can deliver the studies in time – then the Court of Appeal will have that truth when it comes to decide our appeal.
We will work to ensure that, one way or another, the Government is forced to admit to the people the truth about what Brexit means.