'Arguable case' government committed contempt over Brexit legal advice

All options appear to be up for grabs  AFP

All options appear to be up for grabs AFP

MPs from the six main opposition parties wrote to Bercow to ask him to begin contempt proceedings after the Government refused to publish its Brexit legal advice.

A binding Commons vote in November, however, required the government to publish "any legal advice in full".

The government in fact lost three votes, each by narrow but significant margins, demonstrating the huge difficulties it will face in the coming week in a debate and subsequent vote on that deal, which must pass if Brexit is to go ahead as the government plans.

The House of Commons lawmakers voted 311 to 293, backing the ruling that the government was in contempt of the Parliamentary procedure. It is the first time a government has ever been held in contempt by parliament, and unquestionably further weakens the authority of Theresa May.

The "final and full" advice will be released tomorrow.

This is a far greater concern for No 10 than sanctioning of the government or a minister for contempt, which helps explain why the prime minister has deployed leading Brexiteers Mr Cox and Michael Gove, the environment secretary, in the past two days to try and sell her imperfect deal to Brexiteer MPs.

And she will say: "This is the deal that delivers for the British people".

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Ms Haddon said the contempt motion was a "show of force" which could foreshadow both the final vote on the deal and the various amendments lawmakers are trying to attach to it.

The move came as Theresa May prepared to sell her Brexit agreement to MPs at the start of five days of debate on the agreement struck with the EU.

The opposition Labour Party, which pushed for the vote, was jubilant.

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.

The Prime Minister told Cabinet that the publication of the document setting out the legal position on Monday and the Attorney General's appearance in the Commons "are by themselves extraordinary steps for any government to take".

Tory MP Anne Marie Morris Newton Abbot earlier intervened on Mrs May to suggest her deal would mean the United Kingdom would be "stuck with the same rule base that we have in the EU".

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