Brexit: UK ministers found in contempt of parliament

05 December, 2018, 03:52 | Author: Lucy Floyd
  • UK told Brexit could be cancelled without approval of other members

However, the government responded on Monday by publishing only a 43-page summary of the advice and taking the unusual step of sending the British Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, to the House of Commons to make a statement and answer questions from members of parliament.

On the first day of debate, before the main vote on December 11, her government was found in contempt of parliament and then a group of her own Conservative Party lawmakers won a challenge to hand more power to the House of Commons if her deal is voted down.

At a rowdy session of Parliament, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox outlined the legal advice he had given to the government, including over a "backstop" arrangement to prevent the return of a hard border between Northern Ireland and European Union member state Ireland if a future U.K. -EU trading deal is not reached in time.

Twenty-five Conservative MPs rebelled to support Tory former minister Dominic Grieve's amendment created to give Parliament a greater say on Brexit plans if the Government's EU Withdrawal Agreement is rejected next week, according to the division list.

She said the Government, which had sought to slow down the process by referring the issue to Parliament's Committee of Privileges, had fulfilled the spirit of the order to publish.

Once the results of the two votes were announced, Labour's Keir Starmer described the situation as "unprecedented" and noted that the legal advice must now be published in full.

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This could open the door for the Commons to throw its weight behind a Norway-style soft Brexit, or even a second European Union referendum, though prominent Leave-backing MPs questioned whether any such vote would be binding on ministers.

No longer must the will of Parliament - reflecting the will of the people - be diminished.

As he presented his motion to the House, Mr Grieve said: "The House will recall that back in last June issues arose about how the House should proceed in the event of the Government's motion being rejected".

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.

May faces an uphill struggle to secure Parliament's approval in a vote on December 11, when many Brexit supporters and opponents alike say they will reject her vision for leaving the EU, Britain's biggest shift in foreign policy in over 40 years.

"The fact is, during the course of this administration we have won the overwhelming majority of votes that have taken place on the floor of the House of Commons".

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The Scottish Government also welcomed the announcement and said it gives the United Kingdom an opportunity to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

Before the debate, May's government faced another showdown with lawmakers over the legal advice about the Brexit deal.

For starters, there has been little agreement in parliament on much of anything except that no one likes the deal May secured.

MPs' decisions over the next week would "set the course our country takes for decades to come", she said.

The full legal advice given to ministers is understood to run to several thousand pages.

The EU Withdrawal Agreement covers a settlement of £39 billion (US$49.8 billion) that Britain will have to play for leaving. A small number of Labour rebels could support her, but the party's official position is to vote against the deal.

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