U.K. Parliament delivers rebuke to government over Brexit
LONDON— Britain’s Parliament dealt Prime Minister Theresa May’s government two bruising defeats Tuesday, and that was before lawmakers began an epic debate that will decide the fate of May’s European Union divorce deal and her political career.
Opening five days of debate on the Brexit agreement, May said that since the British people voted in 2016 to leave the EU, 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.
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 Brexit deal.
The reprimand, while largely symbolic, marks the first time a British government has been found in contempt of Parliament.
The 311-293 vote demonstrated the fragility of May’s government, which does not have a majority in Parliament. Labour Party Brexit spokesperson Keir Starmer called the contempt finding “a badge of shame.”
The government said that in light of the vote it would publish the advice from Attorney General Geoffrey Cox.
He and other ministers also could face reprimands or suspension from Parliament.
In another sign of the government’s weakness, lawmakers also passed an amendment giving Parliament more say over the government’s next steps if the assembly rejects the divorce deal in a vote set for Dec. 11.