Fri 26 April 2019

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox claimed he showed MPs a list of Brexit trade deals. He never has. The Sun got it first.

Today the Parliamentary International Trade Committee has imposed a another deadline on Secretary of State Liam Fox, over the state of rolled over trade deals in the lead up to Brexit on the 29 March.

Last week after Prime Minister’s Questions, Trade Secretary Liam Fox took the floor and faced uncomfortable questions from his parliamentary colleagues.

The Sun newspaper had just leaked an explosive document from Fox’s department, in a report that also quotes an anonymous DIT Minister. Titled ‘State of Play’ the leaked document is a Brexit risk matrix. It shows that only SIX trade deals, out of 40, are ready or on-track for 29 March. Further, if you read the FT, this is just one part of the 750+ treaties needed to exit the EU safely.

Why are tabloids getting more information on Brexit, faster, than our MPs?

As Byline Times previously reported, Fox has been keeping MPs in the dark for a long time on what his department is working on. MPs have also repeatedly chased for a risk matrix of deals, and wrote another nagging letter last week. 

The Sun got it first. Just how evasive Fox has been over this document was revealed in the aftermath of that leak, in a surreal exchange with Tom Brake, Brexit spokesman for the Lib Dems, on February 13th.

Brake: “The Secretary of State will recall that last week I asked him to provide this matrix to the House. He wouldn’t, he asserted instead that if only I had listened to his contribution to the International Trade select Committee that all was revealed there. I went back and listened to it and NOTHING was revealed there in terms of the content of this matrix”

Brake is right. As we reported on Wednesday, Fox had not ‘revealed all’ to the scrutiny Committee. He had failed to give even an exact number of countries being worked on across government. He promised to provide information in the future. Members laid into Fox for running down the clock on scrutiny, as Britain risks a No Deal exit on 29 March.

Brake pressed the Secretary of State .

“Why wouldn’t he make this information available, which of course has now been leaked to The Sun, to members of parliament?”

In his reply, Fox claimed that a number of agreements were close to completion but were subject to “a level of confidentiality”.

The Sun’s leak contributed to in-depth analysis by journalists on what the real impact of No Deal but Brake’s question hangs in the air. Why are tabloids getting more information on Brexit, faster, than our MPs?


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