Brexit and Open Government in the UK: 11 Months of May
19 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2017 Last revised: 4 Jul 2017
Date Written: June 19, 2017
This paper examines how Brexit has influenced the UK’s transparency regime and how openness, in turn, will shape the UK’s Brexit process. There are three ways of looking at Brexit and open government: through possible changes to old policies and the pushing of new ones, through the new Prime Minister championing transparency or supporting secrecy, and the openness of the Brexit process itself, which so far has seen a struggle between the executive’s secretive prerogative powers and the legislature’s rights to know.
May’s government will also be seen as one that prized secrecy but conceded openness, an object (and abject) lesson in how hard it is to keep government closed in the 21st century. The May administration 2016-2017 is likely to be remembered as a secretive one, headed by a Prime Minister that wished to govern through confidentiality and closed networks. Though there were some high profile openness policies they were inherited and proceeded slowly, if at all.
Brexit reveals how badly the approach misfired. The government’s plan of no ‘running commentary’ and secrecy was undermined by the Supreme Court, the UK Parliament and the EU Commission, who all forced greater transparency and greatly limited May’s room for manoeuvre and concealment. The three institutions, creating and using ‘institution friction’ to open up government, also exposed the government’s lack of preparation and undermined the UK’s credibility and leverage even before Brexit began.
Keywords: Brexit, openness, transparency, Theresa May
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