May to pub­lish Brexit le­gal ad­vice as Tories urge change of course

The Guardian Australia - - Headlines - Ra­jeev Syal

The gov­ern­ment will re­lease le­gal ad­vice re­ceived over Brexit on Wed­nes­day morn­ing fol­low­ing Tues­day’s ex­tra­or­di­nary three par­lia­men­tary de­feats in a sin­gle day.

An­drea Lead­som said the doc­u­ments would be handed over at 11.30am af­ter MPs passed a his­toric mo­tion find­ing the gov­ern­ment in con­tempt of par­lia­ment for fail­ing to pre­vi­ously pub­lish.

Mean­while, a string of Con­ser­va­tive col­leagues urged the prime min­is­ter to change her plans for Brexit, which are due to be voted upon on Tues­day. She is fac­ing al­most cer­tain de­feat when MPs vote on the with­drawal agree­ment on 11 De­cem­ber.

In a de­fi­ant in­ter­view on the BBC Ra­dio 4 To­day pro­gramme, Lead­som, the leader of the House, said any MP who had am­bi­tions of be­ing in gov­ern­ment at some point in the fu­ture would “live to re­gret” the con­tempt vote that forced the gov­ern­ment to pub­lish its full Brexit le­gal ad­vice.

She said Wed­nes­day night’s de­feats made leav­ing the EU with­out a deal more likely and urged col­leagues to re­turn to the deal when they voted on it next Tues­day.

She said: “We will com­ply with [the vote] but not with­out some re­gret. This is a very im­por­tant breach that has taken place here.

“Law of­fi­cers them­selves will be very re­luc­tant to give ad­vice which they might then see across the front pages of the news­pa­pers.

“Frankly, any par­lia­men­tar­ian who wants at some point to be in gov­ern­ment is go­ing to live to re­gret their vote last night.”

She said that the amend­ment pro­posed by fel­low Tory Do­minic Grieve which was passed on Tues­day, giv­ing MPs the chance to vote on a “plan B” pro­posal if noth­ing has been agreed by Jan­uary, did not mean that MPs could block a no-deal Brexit.

“The gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to leav­ing the Euro­pean Union in line with the ref­er­en­dum and un­less gov­ern­ment were to do some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent to change tack, or in­deed to pass this deal, then we will be leav­ing the EU on 29 March next year with­out a deal,” she said.

Asked whether Theresa May was the right per­son to lead the gov­ern­ment, she said: “She cer­tainly is at the mo­ment.”

Lead­som, one of few long-term Brex­iters who have stuck with May’s deal, ar­gued that MPs had not prop­erly read the deal on of­fer.

“There has been an aw­ful lot of mis­in­for­ma­tion about what’s in this deal,” she said.

Lead­som’s in­ter­view fol­lowed that of Mark Harper, the for­mer Tory chief whip. He told To­day that the prime min­is­ter had to go back to Brussels to de­mand the back­stop came out of the deal to elim­i­nate a wedge be­tween North­ern Ire­land and the rest of the UK.

“She should lis­ten to Con­ser­va­tive col­leagues … It would un­der­mine the UK com­mon mar­ket and threaten the in­tegrity of the UK by cre­at­ing a cus­toms and reg­u­la­tory bor­der down the Ir­ish Sea,” he said.

Harper urged the prime min­is­ter to re­turn to Brussels to at­tempt to ne­go­ti­ate a new deal be­fore the leav­ing date of 29 March.

“There will be new facts on the ta­ble and she will have to go back to our Euro­pean part­ners,” he said.

Even if May did win Tues­day’s vote, she would not be able to gov­ern be­cause the DUP would with­draw sup­port, Harper said.

“If the deal goes through, we will be in of­fice but un­able to gov­ern and we saw what hap­pened yes­ter­day,” he said.

Jus­tine Green­ing, the for­mer ed­u­ca­tion sec­re­tary and a re­mainer, called for a three-option sec­ond ref­er­en­dum to see the gov­ern­ment through the cur­rent chaos, warn­ing that with­out it “we could be de­bat­ing Brexit not for the next five days but for the next five years”.

“This is less about the fu­ture of the Tory party but more about how we can bring the coun­try to­gether.”

The par­lia­men­tary vet­eran and for­mer min­is­ter Oliver Letwin called for the gov­ern­ment to move to­wards a “Nor­way-plus” deal – an al­ter­na­tive that would keep the UK in the EU sin­gle mar­ket, through mem­ber­ship of the Euro­pean Eco­nomic Area, the 31-coun­try zone that cov­ers EU mem­ber states plus Nor­way, Ice­land and Liecht­en­stein.

Pro­moted by the Con­ser­va­tive for­mer min­is­ter Nick Boles, the Nor­way-plus option also means join­ing the Euro­pean Free Trade Area, which also in­cludes Switzer­land.

Letwin told the pro­gramme: “There is a very high pos­si­bil­ity that the deal will be voted down.

“If I was a bet­ting man, I would say that all the mo­tions will fail.

“If we have a Nor­way-plus solution, the whole is­sue of a back­stop falls away.”

Do­minic Raab, the for­mer gov­ern­ment lawyer who re­signed from his post as Brexit sec­re­tary over his op­po­si­tion to May’s deal, told the To­day pro­gramme that only a new law could stop Brexit now.

“I think the Grieve amend­ment was pre­dictable but what we need to un­der­stand is that res­o­lu­tions that par­lia­ment pass have some [po­lit­i­cal] 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 No 10 Down­ing Street,” he said.

Pho­to­graph: HO/AFP/Getty Images

Theresa May must re­lease the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s ad­vice fol­low­ing the Com­mons vote.

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