AS an economic observer, it was fascinating during a gym visit to watch the televised fall-out in Parliament after the leak of a UK Government Brexit analysis which sets out the damage to the country from leaving the European Union.

A week ago in this column, the lack of homework by the UK Government on Brexit was lamented. This criticism still stands.

But news outlet BuzzFeed’s revelation of a paper entitled “EU Exit Analysis - Cross Whitehall Briefing”, dated January 2018, at least shows the Conservative Government is at long last doing some homework.

Unfortunately, with the findings seemingly not to its liking and utterly at odds with pro- Brexit Tories’ views, the UK Government has proved really shy about handing in the little Brexit homework that it has undertaken to Parliament. And it certainly does not want its homework put up on the wall, for general viewing, even after a forced partial u-turn on Wednesday that will see the analysis made available, on a “confidential” basis it said, to MPs and devolved administrations.

It was Steve Baker, who pushed hard for a Leave vote ahead of the June 2016 referendum, who was left on Tuesday in the immediate aftermath of the leak to put forward the excuses for why the UK Government was refusing to publish the analysis in full. The fact there was an analysis at all on the effects of Brexit on various sectors and parts of the UK and the economy as a whole under various scenarios, when it had seemed there was not, had understandably caused quite a stir.

Mr Baker, junior minister at the Department for Exiting the European Union, danced around the key issue of the economic impact as he tried to explain, entirely unconvincingly, why it was in the “national interest” that the “draft” analysis produced by officials for the UK Government should not be published.

Time and again, MPs from the various parties, notably including his own, came up with perfectly sensible and reasonable arguments for the document being published, and expressed valid concerns over the fact this was not happening.

As Mr Baker sidestepped repeatedly the important economic points made, former Conservative Chancellor Kenneth Clarke made no bones about the reality of the situation by declaring Brexit would make future generations poorer.

He said: “It is perfectly obvious to everyone on both sides of the Channel that if the United Kingdom leaves the largest and richest multinational free-trade area in the world and constructs new barriers by way of tariffs, customs or regulatory barriers between ourselves and that market, future generations will to some degree be poorer than they would otherwise have been.”

Mr Clarke, who unlike many other Conservative chancellors can claim a good track record in this key office, then asked Mr Baker if he would “stop pretending that this is something to do with defending our negotiating position” and “accept that he has failed, actually, to protect the Government from political embarrassment”.

The debate made for gripping viewing as it unfolded on the screen of the cross-trainer machine, providing sufficient distraction to make the “mountain peaks” course seem as flat as the UK economy.

Unlike the segment of the Sandra Bullock film “Hope Floats” that was the viewing choice on the screen a few days earlier, the debate could hardly be categorised as “feelgood”.

However, it was reassuring, although not at all surprising, to see the submissions from MPs who saw the folly and dangers of Brexit were far more credible than the nonsense from the Eurosceptics. Also encouraging was the cross-party nature of the opposition to Mr Baker’s arguments.

Mr Baker struck an unconvincing tone, seemingly trying to be combative but entirely on the back foot.

His performance was as unconvincing as some of the coverage in pro-Brexit newspapers of last week’s UK gross domestic product figures.

These showed the UK economy grew in 2017 at its slowest pace since 2012. Yet, based on the (actually uninspiring) 0.5 per cent growth recorded for the fourth quarter of last year being slightly ahead of 0.4 per cent expansion in the preceding three months, one front-page article declared the Brexit “boom” had arrived.

UK economic growth, which has been weighed down by Brexit uncertainty and the surge in inflation caused by sterling’s weakness in the wake of the EU referendum result, was just 1.8 per cent in 2017. Figures this week show the 19-nation eurozone achieved overall growth of 2.5 per cent last year, its fastest for a decade.

Mr Baker made much on Tuesday of the fact some in the chamber giving him a hard time did not favour Brexit, while his own passion for leaving the EU came across loud and clear.

In the face of understandable concerns among MPs that the analysis showed myriad sectors of the economy would be worse off as a result of Brexit, and worries over the impact on various parts of the UK, Mr Baker tried to fall back on excuses about forecasts not being that accurate anyway. One diversion he adopted was to take issue with the Bank of England’s forecasting.

The Brexit camp might have won the June 2016 vote with spurious and bizarre economic arguments. But transparency and reality should always have been key. Citing the national interest as an excuse is unacceptable. Pro-Brexit Conservatives might not like what the economic analysis says, but that is entirely irrelevant.

The electorate, which will bear the economic cost of Brexit over coming years and decades, is entitled to hear more than patriotic claptrap from the Brexiters.

While MPs and the devolved administrations will now be able to have a look at the “EU Exit Analysis” paper, the UK Government should be sharing with the electorate what the Brexit decision is actually likely to cost ordinary people, key sectors, and the overall economy, under the various scenarios.

So it is heartening to hear the Scottish Government say it will publish the analysis if it is given it.

The small glimmer of hope from this week’s drama in Parliament is that the more the economic debates go on in this manner, with cross-party grilling of UK Government ministers, the clearer it should become to the public that Brexit will have a very significant cost.

Sadly, it still seems a long shot that such a dawning realisation will come in time for the electorate to decide the Brexit decision should be reversed. But hopefully growing awareness will force the UK Government to see sense on Brexit, and dispense with the fantasy it will somehow be good for the country.