The truth about Brexit – will it take an inquiry?

Photos shot at the Tories Out demonstration in London on Saturday 31 August 2019.

The UK Government seems determined to sell us the benefits of Brexit, regardless of whether any benefits can be found or not. But when it comes to the true cost and impact, would it take an independent inquiry to expose the true damage done by the Brexiteer deregulation agenda?

A national campaign has been building steam by pushing a public petition to demand an official inquiry – and with one month left to go, its secretary David Keys explains the aims of the campaign for Brexit Spotlight.

Tell us briefly why you think an inquiry is needed? Why now?

David: Brexit was one of the most important political events in modern British history. And yet different politicians etc have diametrically opposed opinions on its consequences. The government maintains that UK/EU relations are “functioning as intended”. On the other hand, anti-Brexit/pro-Europe organisations believe that our departure from the rest of our continent has been an unmitigated disaster.

Clearly the UK public is entitled to be provided with an objective factual non-partisan and impartial assessment of how Brexit has impacted our economy and other aspects of our country.

Only a comprehensive independent Public Inquiry (with full investigative powers) will be able to provide such an assessment. And only when the public have been provided with that information will sufficient numbers of people and politicians feel prepared to do what may be necessary to seriously begin to start reversing Brexit’s impacts.

What would you like an inquiry to look into (specific industries, social aspects, human rights, environment, international relations, or something else)? 

We would want a public inquiry with full investigative powers to objectively assess how Brexit has impacted the UK (and indeed other countries and our relations with them).

Clearly Brexit’s economic consequences are important – but so are its environmental, geopolitical, human rights, European security, educational, health and other impacts.

It’s also crucial that any Public Inquiry assesses how Brexit has effected (and is likely to affect) the individual nations and regions of the UK  – and how its affecting individual industries and services.  Any Inquiry must also assess how Brexit is impacting the public in general and how it is impacting different demographics.

Can the government be trusted to investigate the results of its own political agenda with regards to Brexit? How do you think the process can ensure impartiality and participation from the public?

All Public Inquiries are officially established by the government of the day. That’s the legal necessity. But there is another reason why it’s important that the government is the body that sets up this inquiry –  because, if another sort of inquiry, were to be established by any other entity, the government would be under zero pressure to listen to its findings. And any other sort of inquiry would almost certainly have less investigative powers.

Public enquiries are a major factor of modern UK politics – and it is therefore very illuminating and revealing that the current pro-Brexit government believes that the consequences of one of modern British history’s biggest political events (namely Brexit) is not “an appropriate subject for a public inquiry”!! That’s perhaps an additional reason why we should push for one!

Public inquiries, once they have been set up, are, in many genuine ways, independent of government and tend to be relatively free from government interference. Although, the appointment of a Public Inquiry Chair is officially by a government minister, that minister has, by law, to consult with the Lord Chief Justice on who the Inquiry  Chair should be – and the Lord Chief Justice is appointed by the judiciary and is not a government appointee. It would be very difficult for a government minister to appoint an Inquiry Chair who was not deemed appropriate by the Lord Chief Justice (and the Judiciary the Lord Chief Justice is de facto accountable to).

Clearly no processes are perfect – but, in terms of credibility, relative impartiality and potential political impact, I believe that Public Inquiries are important elements in democracy’s armoury for holding authority to account.

There is a petition that has secured a debate in Parliament – what more can be done to ensure scrutiny and democratic oversight over Brexit?

As with all Public Inquiries, any Brexit inquiry’s effectiveness will stem from how impartial and thorough it is perceived to be. Its effectiveness will also depend on its legal ability to extract information (pertaining to Brexit’s impacts) including information hidden inside government departments.

Clearly any Public Inquiry will also need to take huge amounts of evidence from experts, companies, NGOs and members of the public – in order to establish precisely how Brexit has impacted the UK.

In my view, Brexit has affected virtually every aspect of life in the UK (and beyond). And yet a large number of political and communal organisations don’t really like talking about it (at least not very loudly!) – despite the fact that their respective remits often include areas massively impacted by Brexit.

That is clearly a huge problem – because it helps prevent the politicians who were responsible for Brexit (and who continue to implement it) being held to account.

So I think that much more needs to be done to encourage trades unions, business organisations, environmental organisations, consumer organisations, educational organisations, health organisations and human rights organisations etc to seriously assess how Brexit is affecting their specific sectors and their memberships – and to speak out loudly and publicly about it. There is currently far too much reticence.

There’s also a need for increased coordination between pro-European/anti-Brexit groups. In my view, Another Europe and the European Movement (which now has well over 17,000 members) and other organisations will have important roles in mobilizing the public and politicians (of all parties) to enhance oversight of Brexit’s unfolding impacts. As a member of EM (and Secretary of an EM branch, Harrow and Hillingdon European Movement in West London), I’m very proud of the fact that it was a grassroots EM branch (Leeds for Europe) which initiated the petition which helped launch the current campaign.

What are the next steps for the campaign?

As you know, the impact of Brexit on our economy and society is regarded by too many politicians as a taboo issue. Up till now the subject has been the political ‘elephant in the room’ – at least in Parliament.

Next week’s 24 April debate will be the first time the issue has been debated by the House of Commons for more than three years. That’s why the giant petition which triggered the debate – and the debate itself – are so important.

The demand for a Public Inquiry, for the first time, allows often sadly silent MPs and large sections of the UK public to get behind a Brexit-related issue (without the need for them to currently be pro or anti Brexit or pro or anti rejoin)

What’s more, the opinion polls show public support for a Public Inquiry is very strong.

A Public Inquiry would almost certainly make it much more difficult for government to claim that Brexit is ‘going to plan’ –  and would also make it much more difficult for government to credibly resist moving closer to the rest of our continent.

We plan to step up our campaign for a Public Inquiry over the coming months –  and will tell all relevant organisations (including Another Europe) as soon as our plans are finalised. But the next stage of the campaign will include developing links with trade unions and other civil society organisations  – and mobilising the public to encourage additional MPs to support the concept of a public inquiry.

If anybody from trade unions and other civil society organisations would like to help us develop links there, please get in touch with me (David Keys, Secretary, National Campaign for a Public Inquiry into the Consequences of Brexit ( at