Friday lunchtime lecture: Brexit and open government in the UK – 11 months of May

Friday 14 July 2017, 1:00pm - 1:00pm

Open Data Institute, 65 Clifton Street, London, EC2A 4JE

Friday lunchtime lectures are for everyone and are free to attend. You bring your lunch, we provide tea and coffee, an interesting talk, and enough time to get back to your desk.

May

Image: Home Secretary, Theresa May, speaking at the Girl Summit. Picture: Russell Watkins/Department for International Development (CC By 2.0.

How has Brexit influenced the UK’s transparency regime and how, in turn, will openness will shape Brexit? There are three ways of looking at Brexit and open government: 1) possible changes to old policies and new ones being pushed, 2) the new Prime Minister either championing transparency or supporting secrecy, and 3) the openness of the Brexit process itself, which has so far struggled between the executive’s secretive prerogative powers and the legislature’s rights to know.

May’s government will 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. There were some high-profile openness policies, but they were inherited and slow.

In this lecture, Ben Worthy will explain how Brexit shows 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.

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Speaker biography

Ben Worthy is a lecturer in Politics at Birkbeck College, University of London. He has written extensively on issues around Transparency, Openness and Freedom of Information including co-authoring the book Does FOI Work? His latest book is ‘The Politics of Freedom of Information: How and Why Governments Pass Laws That Threaten Their Power’ (Manchester: MUP) and you can read an extract here.

He is also researching the impact of the UK Government’s Transparency Agenda and is also the Independent Reporter on the UK’s Open Government National Action Plan for the Open Government Partnership. He was previously Research Associate in Freedom of Information at UCL’s Constitution Unit.

Live stream

You can watch a live stream of this lunchtime lecture here from 1pm on Friday 14 July: