Pressure on May over Brexit advice
THERESA MAY has faced demands from both her own Cabinet and her Democratic Unionist Party allies to show the full legal advice behind her Brexit plans.
The Cabinet is on stand-by for fresh talks to agree a Brexit deal amid claims by Tory Leavers that the Prime Minister has already reached an agreement, while Mrs May will update European Council president Donald Tusk on the latest developments.
But Brexiteers, including Environment Secretary Michael Gove, want to see the full legal advice setting out how any customs arrangement to avoid a hard Irish border could be ended to avoid it becoming a permanent settlement.
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, chief whip for Mrs May’s DUP allies, called for the advice to be published, as did shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer.
The calls came as the Prime Minister set up five new panels to advise on adapting to the post-Brexit business world.
Leading figures including BT Group chairman Jan du Plessis and ITV boss Carolyn McCall will co-chair the telecoms, creative, technology and media business council.
Sir Roger Carr, of BAE Systems, and RollsRoyce chairman Ian Davis will co-chair the industrial, infrastructure and manufacturing council and other senior figures will also chair business councils for the small business, financial and retail sectors.
Speculation that a Brexit deal is close was fuelled by leaked documents apparently setting out how the Prime Minister would sell an exit package to the public.
Downing Street distanced itself from the blueprint reported by the BBC but the document heightened suspicion among Tory Brexiteers that a deal has secretly been secured.
Mrs May’s plan would see the whole UK effectively agree to remain in the customs union to help avoid a hard border with Ireland as a “backstop” if no other arrangement can be found.
Mr Gove wants to see the full legal advice setting out how an exit from the backstop can be found to make sure the UK is not permanently kept within a customs union which would severely curtail its ability to strike free trade deals with nations around the world – a key prize for Brexiteers.
With Mrs May relying on the 10 DUP MPs for a Commons majority, Sir Jeffrey’s demand that the legal advice be published – something not normally done by governments – poses a fresh headache for the Prime Minister.
Sir Jeffrey told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think it’s in the public interest we understand fully what’s happening here.
“It’s because it affects the whole UK, therefore it shouldn’t just be the DUP that sees this advice, or the Government.
“If the House of Commons is going to have a meaningful vote on a deal that includes, and upon which this legal advice is very, very important, then I think people are entitled to know what that advice is.”