The government’s insistence that it will not publish the full legal advice on Theresa May’s Brexit deal will create a constitutional crisis and could result in a general election, MPs have warned.
The PM says the advice from Attorney General Geoffrey Cox is confidential, but MPs from across the aisle have called on her to publish it in full to give them a better understanding of the deal and to restore the public’s confidence in the politics.
MPs say the government’s decision to only publish a shortened form of the advice implies they are trying to hide the full implications of May’s proposed Brexit deal and does not respect a binding Commons vote last month, which required the government to lay before Parliament “any legal advice in full”.
According to the Sunday Times, Cox told ministers in a letter that the only way for the UK to withdraw from the Northern Ireland “backstop” arrangement under May’s proposed deal would be to sign a new trade deal, a process that would likely take years to complete. Such a position would leave the UK tied to the EU’s rules, but without any say at the table for years to come, which most Brexiteers and Remainers agree would leave the UK in a worse position than its current position as a member of the EU.
Cox will make a statement about it later today, and his comments will be followed by five days of debate on May’s proposed Brexit deal. The final “meaningful vote” on the deal is scheduled for 11 December.
If May does not produce the full legal advice, Labour plans to join forces with the SNP, Liberal Democrats, and DUP, to initiate contempt of Parliament proceedings. Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade, Barry Gardiner, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show that May faced a “very serious constitutional crisis” if she refused to comply with the Commons vote on the subject and her failure to do so should result in a general election.
Conservative MP Sam Gyimah, who resigned from May’s cabinet on Sunday over the proposed deal, said: “Levelling with the public and parliament on Brexit is key to restoring trust in politics, healing divisions and unifying the country behind any preferred outcome, which is why the Attorney General’s legal advice should be published in full before next weeks historic vote.”