Mrs May duty-bound to reveal legal advice
With just nine days to go before the vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal, it is time for the Government to release the full advice on the implications of the Withdrawal Agreement. If the only arguments against are that full publication only happens in exceptional circumstances and at a prime minister’s discretion, then we have to point out that these are exceptional circumstances and Mrs May is duty-bound to use her prerogative. Instead, she denies full clarity not just to MPs but to her Cabinet, too. No wonder some have raised the possibility that ministers are backing the deal without knowing the legal ramifications.
It is also time for Mrs May to answer the question put to her directly by Sir Bill Cash MP, a former shadow attorney general, and now laid out compellingly in the pages of this newspaper: is the Withdrawal Agreement incompatible with the Withdrawal Act 2018? Sir Bill points out that the 2018 Act, which converted EU law into British law and rendered the European Communities Act 1972 null and void, should take primacy over a treaty – and yet, he argues that a form of the 1972 Act will remain in place under the terms of the agreement. If true, that would be a constitutional mess.
The heart of the matter is whether Britain really is leaving and regaining control of its own laws, or signing up to Brexit in name only. The agreement as it stands is a sham. It retains a role for the European Court of Justice. It limits our ability to lower prices; it could kill off new trade agreements; and prevents us from changing many of our own regulations. It exposes us to lengthy blackmail by the EU, while the backstop, which is the most common objection, threatens to trap Britain in a customs union prison from which it cannot unilaterally withdraw.
The alliance growing against Mrs May’s deal now combines Remainers and Leavers, and every minister who walks out of office and every MP who takes the risk of opposing the Government is to be applauded for their courage. Mrs May must not be allowed to steamroller this through under the cover of legal darkness.