My battle with the HMRC to get their Brexit Impact Assessments.9th October 2018
So I thought I would upload all the correspondence that I have had with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in my battle to get them to release their Brexit impact assessments which they have confirmed exist.
My initial request was submitted on 23rd July and was as follows;
“Dear HM Revenue and Customs,
I would like to know if you have unreleased Brexit related assessments. If so can you release them to me in full.
It has been reported today that you do indeed have, a so far unpublished impact assessment relating to our exit from the European Union.
This is very much within the public interest and ask that it be released without delay.
I would like to know what the HMRC envisages the impact on the UK’s tax and VAT revenues would be in the event of a no deal.
Will revenues initially fall in the event in the event of a no deal? If so why?
What precautions you are taking and what is the cost of these precautions?
Their first response
As you can see from their 1st Response they confirmed that they DO have Brexit impact assessments but that they are unwilling to release them at this time due to it undermining the current EU/UK Brexit negotiations.
Undeterred, I submitted a request for an internal review. This is where they (HMRC) look at my request again to see if the decision should be changed. I wasn’t hopeful but it’s part of the process. It went as follows;
“Dear HM Revenue and Customs,
Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.
I am writing to request an internal review of HM Revenue and Customs’s handling of my FOI request ‘Brexit impact assessments’.
This is one of THE most important things our country is going through. The public interest in Brexit and the possible outcomes of a No Deal is extremely high.
While you may argue that this undermines the UK ability to negotiate, but the case for public transparency is far more important in this case. People living in the UK have an absolute right to know what a government department thinks will happen in different scenarios.
To withhold them undermines public trust in our government. There is no case to say that the public interest case isn’t compelling enough.
I again ask you to consider what is more important.
Public trust in our government or witholding what are merely scenerios.
Even more compelling is the fact several government ministrs have stated that the UK will be fine in a no deal situation. Therefore the case for disclosure is hard to refuse.
Failure to release them undermines the right we have to hold our elected representatives to account. They have made these claims so we now have the right to know whether or not they are true in the HMRCs opinion.
Please ensure that the original reports are kept and remain unaltered from the date of my original request as I will take this to the ICO and the High Court with NUJ help if necessary.
A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/b…
Internal review rejected on to the ICO
It’s no surprise that HMRC rejected the internal review. I don’t expect them to police their own decisions impartially as it would undermine their own staff. This left me with only one option. Appeal to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
To do this you must complete a form and attach all correspondence you have received for the relevant public body. As I did it through WhatDoTheyKnow.com it makes things much much easier.
I attached all the correspondence, listed all communication in chronological order with the links for reference and included my reasoning for appealing to them.
“I am therefore requesting that you decide on this. The existence of the reports and the information they contain are of utmost importance to UK citizens.
As the UK government has a clear negotiating stance as set out in the “chequers agreement” it is hard for the HMRC to argue that the release of these documents could harm negotiations. It cannot harm them as everyone knows their position and they have clearly stated this on several occasions.
The Prime Minister also made an address to the country stating that the chequers deal is their stance and that they will take a no deal if the EU can’t agree to it. Again, the UK governments stance is known because of this.
The HMRC notes the technical notices in their refusal of my request. The reports I am requesting could help individuals and businesses better prepare for a no-deal scenario. It can be argued that the reports I asked for are supplementary to the technical notices as they must have been used to compile the information in the first place.
Government Ministers (Liam Fox and then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson) and MPs have stated that a no-deal Brexit would not harm the UK or its citizens. The electorate are unable to hold MPs and ministers to account if we do not know what they are basing this on. Ministers have made the claim and for public trust to be maintained these reports should be released. Failure to do so shows that the government has not been truthful when advising parliament and the electorate on scenarios.
Due to the importance of the request I ask that you investigate as quickly as possible.
I must now await the response of the ICO. I will of course keep you all updated on the progress of the request and should I be successful the reports will be published on here for everyone to view and use as they wish.
It is important that we can hold MPs to account on the statements that they make. Otherwise we are just like sheep who follow without question.
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