May suf­fers set­backs over Brexit de­bate

China Daily (Canada) - - WORLD - By JONATHAN POW­ELL in Lon­don [email protected]­nadai­

The UK gov­ern­ment be­came the first in the na­tion’s his­tory to lose a con­tempt of Par­lia­ment vote over its han­dling of le­gal ad­vice about its pro­posed Brexit deal.

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May suf­fered an ex­tra­or­di­nary three par­lia­men­tary de­feats in a sin­gle day, as re­bel­lious MPs at West­min­ster sought to wrest back con­trol of Brexit.

The vote on Tues­day found the gov­ern­ment in con­tempt of Par­lia­ment for ig­nor­ing a Com­mons vote de­mand­ing pub­li­ca­tion of its le­gal ad­vice. In re­sponse, the gov­ern­ment was due to pub­lish it on Wed­nes­day, af­ter min­is­ters agreed to re­lease the ad­vice in full.

MPs had al­ready voted down a gov­ern­ment com­pro­mise, which would have re­ferred the dis­pute to Par­lia­ment’s priv­i­leges com­mit­tee, de­lay­ing it un­til af­ter next week’s crunch vote on May’s deal.

MPs then in­flicted a third de­feat, pass­ing a cross-party amend­ment aimed at strength­en­ing the hand of Par­lia­ment if the deal is voted down.

Se­cu­rity and im­mi­gra­tion will be the fo­cus of the sec­ond of five days of de­bate in the Com­mons, where Tues­day’s marathon ses­sion ex­tended into the early hours.

UK min­is­ters forged ahead with ef­forts to win over MPs on Wed­nes­day, with an­other eight hours of de­bate due.

May was set to face Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn at prime min­is­ter’s ques­tions at mid­day, be­fore the Brexit de­bate got un­der way.

On Mon­day, the gov­ern­ment’s chief le­gal ad­viser, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ge­of­frey Cox, had pub­lished a sum­mary of his le­gal ad­vice, but that did not sat­isfy MPs who said the ad­vice should have been pub­lished in full.

Cox told MPs on Mon­day that his ad­vice con­tained no bomb­shells and should re­main pri­vate.

Labour called for the im­me­di­ate pub­li­ca­tion of the ad­vice along with the Lib­eral Democrats, the Scot­tish Na­tional Party, the Demo­cratic Union­ist Party, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party.

MPs can now use the gov­ern­ment’s le­gal ad­vice in their de­ci­sion-mak­ing process ahead of Par­lia­ment’s Dec 11 vote on May’s deal, which sets out how the UK will in­ter­act with the Euro­pean Union af­ter it with­draws from the bloc at the end of March.

May’s deal is un­pop­u­lar among MPs and is likely to be de­feated, ac­cord­ing to cur­rent pro­jec­tions.

The un­cer­tainty could trig­ger May be­ing un­seated as prime min­is­ter, the call­ing of a gen­eral elec­tion, and pos­si­bly a re­open­ing of ne­go­ti­a­tions with the EU, as well as po­ten­tially un­leash a so-called peo­ple’s vote dur­ing which the UK’s elec­torate would again be asked whether the UK should leave the EU.

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