Which of the United Kingdom’s government departments is the most secretive? It’s not the Ministry of Defence, and it’s not the foreign office: the most secretive government department is (surprise, surprise) … Brexit.
Brexit, the incessant debate that saturates newspaper headlines across the British Isles, has been revealed as the most secretive subject in parliament, with more than 60 percent of freedom of information (FOI) requests turned down or ignored completely.
The Institute for Government (IFG) shared figures with the Guardian, that show FOI responses paint a “broader picture of government opacity”.
So if you’ve ever wondered if the already complex departure from the Euof Britain is purposefully confusing, that’s because it is: it turns out the British government are keeping more from you than ever before.
IFG research shows that the Department for Exiting the European Union – the department led by Tory MP David Davis – has topped the list over the past year for the number of times information was fully withheld.
The Department for International Trade (DIT), which is involved with Brexit plans, had the worst rating for timeliness. The DIT responded within the required 20 working-day timeframe – or longer, if an extension has been permitted – only 63.5 percent of the time, significantly below the required 85 percent target.
Davis recently found himself in hot water after boasting about a series of reports that never existed, reports that apparently s assessed the impact of Brexit on different British sectors, and the MP narrowly avoided a ‘contempt of parliament’ charge.
IFG’s head of data and transparency Gavin Freeguard said the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) has the worst track record compared to any other government departments.
“DExEU’s record on freedom of information is worse than most other government departments – in two of the five quarters of its existence, it’s withheld more information than any other department,” Freeguard revealed.
“This poor performance is part of a much broader picture of government opacity when it comes to Brexit,” he added. “We have yet to see any serious impact assessments from departments, and are still waiting for white papers that were due to be published before the summer.”
The Brexit department has granted just 18 percent of FOI cases in full in the last 12 months, followed by the Foreign Office and Department for Trade, each of whom provided all requested data in a mere 24 percent of cases.
The DExEU fully withheld information 62% of the time, the best performance, followed by those of the Cabinet Office and HMRC. Most often, declined FOI claims had been considered vexatious.
Officials insisted there were good reasons for the lack of data being provided.