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Brexit news: Government finally publishes full legal advice as Theresa May accused of 'inadvertently misleading' parliament

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Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
@ashcowburn,Lizzy Buchan@LizzyBuchan
Wednesday 05 December 2018 19:10
Theresa May accused of 'inadvertently misleading' parliament in PMQs clash

Theresa May has been accused of "inadvertently misleading" parliament over Brexit in an angry prime minister's questions clash, as the government was forced to publish the full legal advice on her deal.

Her administration became the first in modern political history to be found in contempt of parliament over its refusal to hand over the advice on a bruising day in the Commons, where Ms May suffered three significant defeats.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said the advice had to "dragged out" of ministers and claimed Ms May had been misleading MPs, before he was rebuked by the Speaker.

Meanwhile, home secretary Sajid Javid acknowledged the deal is not "perfect in every sense" as he opened the second day of debates, which will culminate in a Commons showdown next week.

To follow events as they happened, see our live coverage below

Ashley Cowburn5 December 2018 08:21
Ashley Cowburn5 December 2018 08:22
Ashley Cowburn5 December 2018 08:22

Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom has told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the legal advice provided to cabinet will be published at around 11.30am today.

Referring to parliament's decision to find the government in contempt, she said:"It was incredibly disappointing that the House of Commons decided to vote in effect to overturn what has been decades, if not centuries, of conventions whereby the law officer's advice to Cabinet and to ministers are not even acknowledged, let alone published.

"The Attorney General had come to the House for two-and-a-half hours, which is also unprecedented in these many years, to answer questions to give his very best legal advice.

"He published a 48-page document that outlined all of the legal impact of the Withdrawal Agreement, so the vote yesterday of the House to require the specific legal advice to Cabinet we will comply with, but not without some regret."

Ashley Cowburn5 December 2018 08:40

Shami Chakrabarti - the shadow attorney general - has said that extending Article "can't be ruled out".

She was asked about Labour's stance on the issue after the ECJ's advocate general Manuel Campos Sanchez-Bordona said the UK could withdraw its notification to leave the EU before its exit in March 2019 without needing the approval of the other 27 states.

Ms Chakrabarti told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It can't be ruled out because the clock is ticking...

"I think there would be time if Ms May heard what happened in the House of Commons last night and decided to think again and go back to her European colleagues right now and not wait until next week."

Ashley Cowburn5 December 2018 09:04

After suffering the worst defeats in one day for a government in four decades, Andrea Leadsom tells LBC: "I don't think they were embarrassing at all". 

She adds: "I think colleagues may live to regret their vote last night if they are ever in Government.

"A number will understand the Government has to have access to frank, legal advice and now that has been put into doubt."

Ashley Cowburn5 December 2018 09:14
Ashley Cowburn5 December 2018 09:22

Mark Harper - a former chief whip in the Conservative, who voted Remain at the referendum - has said the PM's deal will leave the UK worse off. He predicted the government would lost the vote in six days' time by more than 80 votes.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Harper said: "The Cabinet's proposals are not acceptable because they threaten the integrity of our country, keep us trapped indefinitely in a customs union and leave us in a weak negotiating position for our future relationship."

Mr Harper sharply criticised plans for an Irish border 'backstop' arrangement.

He said: "The prime minister said that the EU's proposal would undermine the UK common market and threaten the constitutional integrity of the UK by creating a customs and regulatory border down the Irish Sea, and no UK prime minister could ever agree to it.

"However, regrettably, the withdrawal agreement that is currently in front of us does exactly this.

"I'm just very disappointed that as a loyal MP I've found myself in this situation, that in order to keep to the promises we made just last year in the general election, I've been forced to vote against the cabinet's proposals.

"Keeping promises in politics is important and I think many colleagues also feel they have been misled."

Ashley Cowburn5 December 2018 09:42

Conservative former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab said it would be "inconceivable" to stop the UK leaving the EU, saying it would be wrong to "pull a handbrake up on Brexit".

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the PM's deal is "lousy", and said: "I think the Grieve amendment was predictable but what we need to understand is that resolutions of Parliament pass as politically have some impact, but they are not legally binding.

"And therefore if the deal is voted down on Tuesday I think what will matter most of all will not be what Parliament says in a motion - it will need legislation to stop Brexit - what will matter is the will and resolve in Number 10 Downing Street."

Ashley Cowburn5 December 2018 09:53
Ashley Cowburn5 December 2018 10:03

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