Journalists walk out after Number 10 bars outlets from Brexit briefing

Political journalists at Westminster have walked out of a briefing on the government's Brexit strategy after Downing Street barred selected media outlets from attending.
Prime Minister Boris JohnsonPrime Minister Boris Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Journalists who tried to attend the briefing from the Mirror, i, Huffington Post, PoliticsHome, Independent and others were told they couldn’t take part.

Scottish and regional publications were not informed by Downing Street about the briefing, which would have been given by civil servants involved in negotiating the UK’s trade deal with the EU.

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The walkout took place following a confrontation between journalists and Lee Cain, Boris Johnson’s top communications adviser, in the foyer of 10 Downing Street.

A security guard with a list of names had divided the group of journalists that arrived for the briefing into two, asking those not welcome to stand on the far side of the foyer.

Mr Cain then asked those not invited to leave, prompting the entire group to walk out.

The Westminster press lobby has already complained to Downing Street about the use of civil servants for briefings to selected media outlets, citing the requirement for civil servants to be politically impartial.

Under the previous government, briefings with civil servants on key developments in the Brexit process, such as the publication of the EU Withdrawal Bill and the Settled Status scheme for EU nationalists in the UK, were open to representatives from all media organisations at Westminster, both domestic and international.

Responding to an update on the Brexit negotiating objectives in the House of Commons, Labour MP Paul Bloomfield said: "If the government is serious about bringing people together, we need reassurance that they will conduct the next stage of negotiations in an open and accountable way, not by banning journalists from political briefings as they apparently did this afternoon.”