Theresa May's seven days to save her Brexit deal

Hannah Rogers
December 5, 2018

Andrea Leadsome, the leader of the House of Commons, has said that the government would accept the result and publish the advice in full on Wednesday.

Only hours before the vote, Mrs May had told Cabinet that "candid" legal advice given to ministers must remain confidential, despite a Commons vote last month demanding its publication in "final and full" form.

Opponents believe the advice will reveal Attorney General Geoffrey Cox's misgivings about the Brexit agreement.

It means MPs will debate and vote on Tuesday on whether or not to refer the case to the Standards Committee.

A judge in the European Union ruled on Tuesday before this vote took place that the United Kingdom could cancel its Brexit plans without getting the approval of all the remaining EU member states.

Labour Party Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said the contempt finding was "unprecedented", and the government said it would now publish the advice.

It is the first time in modern history that a Government has been found in contempt of Parliament.

With the fragility of the government's parliamentary majority laid bare, May opened a five-day debate on her plan for how the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, well-aware an even more significant defeat is on the horizon.

The advice from the ECJ advocate general - not binding but usually heeded by the court - suggested to some lawmakers that revoking Britain's "Article 50" divorce notice was an option.

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With more than a dozen Tory MPs publicly signed up to back the amendment, including Nick Boles, who is spearheading a bid to promote a Norway-style Brexit deal; and the erstwhile loyal Oliver Letwin, the government looks certain to be defeated.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is putting the fate of her Brexit deal in Parliament's hands, saying lawmakers must back it to deliver on voters' 2016 decision to leave the European Union and "create a new role for our country in the world".

Before voting on the main motion, MPs voted down the government amendment by 311 votes to 307. Labour sources say it would be an extraordinary moment for the Prime Minister to have moved a motion (later today) only for the motion not to be put.

The amendment gives MPs the power to instruct the government what action to take if May's Brexit deal is, as expected, voted down in Parliament. Rejecting it would leave the United Kingdom facing the prospect of a chaotic "no-deal" Brexit, but May's chances of winning majority backing for the deal appear slim.

Speaking from the dispatch box, the Prime Minister appealed for those on all sides of the Brexit debate to back her deal, claiming it would protect United Kingdom jobs and security.

Such motions could be used to show a clear majority against going ahead with Brexit on March 29, and mandating the Government to bring forward the necessary regulation to defer the date.

If that happens, the government is required to come back within 21 days and say what it plans to do.

In the most extreme no-deal scenario, shopping bills could rise by up to 10% but even in an orderly no-deal withdrawal, with a transition period, grocery prices could rise by 6%, he said.

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