(Bloomberg) -- For months, journalists tried to get their hands on government papers setting out how leaving the European Union will affect different parts of the British economy. They contained, according to Brexit Secretary David Davis, “excruciating detail.”
But despite boasting about their contents, ministers were reluctant to let anyone else see the documents. In November, after being forced to give way by a vote in Parliament, the government allowed lawmakers to read them under controlled conditions. Their phones were confiscated, and they were only permitted to make notes with pen and paper, lest too much information leak into the public domain.
“These documents in aggregate represent the most comprehensive picture of our economy on this issue to date,” Davis wrote this month, explaining why he was being cautious about publication.
On Thursday, the documents were released online. There was detail, as promised.
“The parts of an aircraft can be simplistically split into three areas,” began the first, on aerospace. It was explained what the industry makes: “structures which include the nose, fuselage, wings, engine nacelles (which encase the engines) and tail; propulsion system which includes engines and propellers, or fan blades; and systems which include the electronics used in the flight system.”
Boeing and Airbus
It went on to reveal that there are two companies in the world that make large passenger aircraft. Now that the documents are public, these firms can be named as Boeing Co. and Airbus SE.
The paper covering the insurance and pensions sector, which employs one in every 100 British workers, is 2,732 words long. “Insurance business operates by firms writing insurance policies for clients, intermediated by brokers,” it reveals. “Insurance firms in turn can pass on excess risk to reinsurance firms, via reinsurance brokers. Insurance underwriting requires large amounts of capital, so the industry tends to be dominated by large firms.”
Each document begins with a 191-word explanation that the package is simply a summary of other documents the Brexit Department possesses.
“Our analysis is not, nor has it ever been, a series of impact assessments examining the quantitative impact of the U.K.’s EU exit on the 58 sectors,” the department explained in a statement. “As our analysis does not exist in the form parliament requested, we took time to bring together information in a way that met parliament’s specific ask.”
The final part of each document, titled “Sector Views,” has been held back at the government’s request, as it explains what companies have said to ministers about Brexit.
Lawmakers were unimpressed. “Most of this could be found on Wikipedia or with a quick Google search,” said David Lammy of the opposition Labour Party. “David Davis clearly misled the House and then set his civil servants the unenviable task of coming up with these documents in a couple of weeks. They look like copy and paste essay crises.”
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