February 19, 2019

Government publish Brexit legal advice they didn't want you to see

07 December 2018, 12:42 | Joann Bryant

Public opposition to the prime minister Theresa May's proposed version of Brexit has weakened her position

Public opposition to the prime minister Theresa May's proposed version of Brexit has weakened her position

Ministers from both sides have heavily criticised Mrs May's vision this week as MP's embarked on fiercely contested debates in the Commons.

Theresa May said: "I've been speaking to factory workers in Scotland, farmers in Wales and people right across the country, answering their questions about the deal and our future".

Cox warns that the backstop arrangement contained within the withdrawal agreement would "endure indefinitely", a phrase which has enraged Brexiteers who say it would represent an incomplete Brexit.

Bob has previously said he will support the Prime Minister's deal to secure Brexit.

"It will ensure we leave the EU as planned on March 29 next year, that we take back control of our borders, end the jurisdiction of the ECJ (European Court of Justice) in the United Kingdom, and we stop sending vast sums of money to Brussels", the minister noted.

Britain's Finance Minister Philip Hammond concurred, saying it is a delusion to think that the government will be able to negotiate a new divorce deal if May's agreement is defeated in a vote in Parliament next week.

In his advice, dated 13 November, Mr Cox says signing up to the backstop was a "political decision". I will support Theresa May as Prime Minister but I am seeking reassurances and expect the deal to change.

The vote clearly went in favour of rejecting a no-deal Brexit and Theresa May's draft proposals - Russell had them on the ropes enough on that front.

Before the prime minister appeared at the despatch box, her government had gone down to defeat for the third time in an hour.

If Mrs May fails to win Parliament's backing on Tuesday, the Government has 21 days in which to return to the House and set out what it plans to do next.

Some 26 Tory MPs - including former ministers Sir Michael Fallon, Damian Green and Sir Oliver Letwin - rebelled on the amendment tabled by ex-attorney general Dominic Grieve.

Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary who had tabled the demand for its publication, said having reviewed the legal advice it was "obvious why this needed to be placed in the public domain". It was the first time in British parliamentary history the government has been found in contempt by MPs.

"The prime minister can't keep pushing Parliament away or avoiding responsible scrutiny".

It seems to confirm the fears of opponents of May's deal that the backstop would tie Britain indefinitely to European Union rules, despite leaving the 28-member economic bloc.

The move is likely to be seen as a bid to bolster flagging support ahead of a crunch Commons vote on her European Union withdrawal deal next Tuesday - a showdown the PM made clear she would not postpone. Even if we get a deal next week the issue is far from over - it is just Act One.

She said it would not be in the "national interest" to block the Withdrawal Agreement, adding: "The only certainty would be uncertainty".

May used an interview on BBC radio to press on with her bid to persuade lawmakers to back her deal.

The government had refused previous requests to publish the advice, which comes just a week before MPs vote on the deal itself, saying it would set a unsafe precedent if the Attorney General could not provide the Prime Minister with honest, confidential legal advice without fear of it being made public.

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