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Sat 14 December 2019
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In Brexit negotiations the transparency of the EU is in stark contrast to Britain, dominated by the hidden hand of think tanks and dark money

In March 2018 the EU freely disclosed more than 80 notices about how it was preparing for the economically disastrous possibility of No Deal. Meanwhile, the UK Government tried to withhold all its No Deal notices from the public on National Security grounds, finally releasing papers last August, 2018. 

Steve Baker MP

“I was imploring Government to make public our no-deal preparations and it was prevented.”

Steve Baker MP, former ERG chair and ex-Minister for Exiting the European Union, 30 Jan 2019.

Both Leave and Remain MPs, who may be warring on everything else, are increasingly united in condemning the secrecy of the UK’s floundering Government, and its executive overreach.

Speaking to the European Scrutiny Committee last month, Brexiteer Steve Baker MP claimed that when he was a DExEu Minister, he repeatedly considered resigning because the Government refused to release information about their No Deal planning.

“I was imploring the government to make public our no-deal preparations and it was prevented,” he said. Baker complained that the Government operated in opaque silos.

It may, however, be a bit rich for Baker to lecture the government on transparency.

The ‘hidden hand’ influence of think-tanks like these increase the suspicion that dark money underpins the whole Brexit movement

On Thursday, investigative journalists at Open Democracy published correspondence to show that Baker’s and other leading Brexiters’ close connection to lobbyists at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), which does not disclose who its donors are.

The ‘hidden hand’ influence of think-tanks like these increase the suspicion that dark money underpins the whole Brexit movement. Baker is ex-chairman if the powerful backbench Eurosceptic “European Research Group” (ERG), which holds the majority of conservative seats in Parliament and can therefore hold Theresa May’s back to the wall. OD’s work yesterday suggests the ERG should question more closely who their research draws from.

Ultimately, Steve Baker did quit his Ministerial role at exactly the same time as Brexit Secretary David Davis in July 2018, but this was before the UK’s No Deal notices were ultimately released, last August.

For further analysis of Brexit secrecy and other executive overreach across government, follow our investigation In Contempt, Democracy in Darkness. You can also send any tips or ideas to alex.v.winter@pm.me, currently tracking this issue

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