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Here’s the Brexit deal legal advice Theresa May tried to withhold from parliament

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Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street, London
Britain’s
Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street,
London

Reuters / Henry
Nicholls


  • Downing Street has published the legal advice it was
    given on Theresa May’s Brexit deal by the government’s top law
    officer, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox.
  • The government tried to prevent the full legal advice
    being published, and MPs found the government in contempt of
    parliament for refusing a demand to do so.
  • Here’s everything you need to know about the legal advice the
    government tried to withhold.

LONDON — The government has published the full legal advice it
was given on Theresa May’s Brexit plan after MPs found the
government to be in contempt of parliament for refusing to do
so. 

The advice, from Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, the country’s top
law officer, examines the details of the Withdrawal Agreement,
which covers the terms of Britain’s divorce from the EU.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Cox warns that the deeply unpopular “backstop”
    arrangement contained within the withdrawal agreement would
    “endure indefinitely,” a phrase which has enraged Brexiteers
    who believe the mechanism is a ploy to keep the UK bound to the
    EU.
  • It confirms the government does not have the right to
    withdraw from the backstop unilaterally, something Brexiteers
    have advocated.
  • There is a legal risk that UK could become stuck in
    “protracted and repeating rounds of negotiations” with
    Brussels. 
  • The date on the Attorney General’s advice is 13
    November, the same day MPs asked for the advice to be
    published. This could mean that the government had not actually
    received any formal legal advice on the Withdrawal Agreement
    before, despite May publishing her formal Brexit plan weeks
    earlier.

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

Cox instead published a 48-page legal commentary outlining the
advice he had provided on the Brexit plan and was grilled by MPs
in the Commons for two hours on the subject on Monday.

But MPs voted 311 to 293 to find May’s government in
contempt on Tuesday afternoon, forcing Downing Street to publish
the advice in full. It was the first time in British
parliamentary history the government has been found in contempt
by MPs.

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