May suf­fers de­feats

Bri­tish Par­lia­ment re­bukes PM, finds gov’t in con­tempt for not pub­lish­ing re­port

Simcoe Reformer - Times-Reformer - - WORLD NEWS - JILL LAW­LESS and RAF CASERT THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

LON­DON — Bri­tain’s Par­lia­ment dealt Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s gov­ern­ment two bruis­ing de­feats on Tues­day, even be­fore law­mak­ers be­gan an epic de­bate that will de­cide the fate of May’s Euro­pean Union di­vorce deal — and of her po­lit­i­cal ca­reer.

Open­ing five days of de­bate on the Brexit deal, May told Par­lia­ment that the Bri­tish peo­ple had voted in 2016 to leave the EU, and it was the “duty of this Par­lia­ment to de­liver on the re­sult” of the ref­er­en­dum.

De­spite her en­treaties, the gov­ern­ment ap­peared to be on a col­li­sion course with an in­creas­ingly as­sertive Par­lia­ment over the next steps in the U.K.’s exit.

Min­utes be­fore May rose to speak, law­mak­ers de­liv­ered a his­toric re­buke, find­ing her Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment in con­tempt of Par­lia­ment for re­fus­ing to pub­lish the ad­vice it had re­ceived from the coun­try’s top law of­fi­cer about the pro­posed terms of Brexit.

The rep­ri­mand, by 311 votes to 293, marks the first time a Bri­tish gov­ern­ment has been found in con­tempt of Par­lia­ment.

Labour Party Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer called the con­tempt find­ing “a badge of shame” for the gov­ern­ment.

The gov­ern­ment said that in light of the vote it would pub­lish the ad­vice from At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ge­of­frey Cox on Wed­nes­day.

The main thrust of Cox’s ad­vice is al­ready known — the gov­ern­ment re­leased a 43-page doc­u­ment on it Mon­day in a bid to fend off the con­tempt mo­tion. But the con­tempt vote demon­strated the fragility of May’s gov­ern­ment, which does not have a ma­jor­ity in Par­lia­ment.

In an­other sign of the gov­ern­ment’s weak­ness, law­mak­ers passed an amend­ment giv­ing Par­lia­ment more say over the gov­ern­ment’s next steps if the di­vorce deal is re­jected in a vote on Dec. 11.

The deal, en­dorsed last month by the 27 other EU lead­ers, lays out the terms of Bri­tain’s de­par­ture from the bloc on March 29 and sets the frame­work for fu­ture re­la­tions with the EU. Re­ject­ing it would leave the U.K. fac­ing the prospect of a chaotic “no-deal” Brexit, but May’s chances of win­ning ma­jor­ity back­ing for the deal ap­pear slim.

Politi­cians on both sides of Bri­tain’s EU mem­ber­ship de­bate op­pose the agree­ment — proBrexit leg­is­la­tors be­cause it keeps Bri­tain bound closely to the EU, and pro-EU politi­cians be­cause it erects bar­ri­ers be­tween the U.K. and its big­gest trad­ing part­ner.

“The num­bers in the Houses of Par­lia­ment look pretty for­mi­da­ble for Theresa May,” said Alan Wa­ger, a re­search as­so­ciate at the U.K. at the Chang­ing Europe think-tank. “Over 100 Con­ser­va­tive MPs have said they are not go­ing to back the deal, the Labour Party have said they are not go­ing to back the deal. So it looks like the deal won’t pass next week.”

Leav­ing the EU with­out a deal would end more than 40 years of free trade and dis­rupt the flow of goods and ser­vices be­tween Bri­tain and the EU. The Bank of Eng­land warned last week that a no-deal Brexit could plunge Bri­tain into a se­vere re­ces­sion.

Bank of Eng­land gover­nor Mark Car­ney said Tues­day that Bri­tish con­sumers could see their weekly su­per­mar­ket bills rise by 10 per cent in a worst-case Brexit sce­nario that in­volves a 25 per cent fall in the value of the pound.

Pro-EU law­mak­ers said they had made the prospect of a “no-deal” Brexit less likely by se­cur­ing an amend­ment giv­ing Par­lia­ment more power to guide the gov­ern­ment’s next steps if the deal is re­jected on Dec. 11.

If that hap­pens, the gov­ern­ment is re­quired to come back within 21 days and say what it plans to do. The amend­ment stip­u­lates that Par­lia­ment can change that state­ment — ef­fec­tively telling the gov­ern­ment what to do. Since most law­mak­ers op­pose a no-deal Brexit, they could es­sen­tially take that op­tion off the ta­ble.

In an­other boost to op­po­nents of Brexit, a top of­fi­cial at the Euro­pean Union’s high­est court ad­vised Tues­day that Bri­tain can change its mind about leav­ing the Euro­pean Union if it wants.

Ad­vo­cate Gen­eral Manuel Cam­pos Sanchez-Bor­dona told the Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice that EU law “al­lows the uni­lat­eral re­vo­ca­tion of the no­ti­fi­ca­tion of the in­ten­tion to with­draw from the EU.”

JACK TAY­LOR/GETTY IM­AGES Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May leaves 10 Down­ing Street on Tues­day in Lon­don, Eng­land. Bri­tish MPs re­buked May’s gov­ern­ment for re­fus­ing to pub­lish the full ad­vice of At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ge­of­frey Cox.

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