Mrs May duty-bound to re­veal le­gal ad­vice

The Sunday Telegraph - - Letters to the editor -

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.

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