Government must publish Brexit legal advice

Theresa May has the power to unilaterally reverse Brexit says EU's law chief

Following the votes, Mrs May officially opened five days of debate in parliament on her Brexit deal, ahead of a crucial vote on December 11th, when MPs will be asked to approve it.

The amendment isn't legally binding - but it carries huge political weight and would be very hard for the government to ignore.

The Government said after the vote that it would now publish the full advice.

Opposition parties and the small Northern Irish party that props up Ms May's minority Government are furious that it only provided an outline of the legal basis for its Brexit deal after Parliament voted to be given the full advice.

But Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom said: "No honourable member could say in all honesty that the Attorney General has done anything other than treat this House with the greatest of respect, there can be no question that he or the Government has acted in a manner which is contemptuous of this House".

He told BBC Radio 4's Today that the meaningful vote on the Brexit deal was "the single biggest decision the country will have taken in 50 years" and the Government's decision "impedes the house in the performance of its function".

The vote has little direct impact on the Brexit debate, but reflects mounting tension between the government and Parliament over the next steps in Brexit.

The deal, endorsed last month by the 27 other European Union 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.

Reflecting on her personal journey, May added: "I have spent almost two years negotiating this deal. So it looks like the deal won't pass next week". The Bank of England warned last week that a no-deal Brexit could plunge Britain into a severe recession.

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After the vote, the British pound fell to its lowest against the USA dollar since mid-August.

Speaking from the dispatch box, the Prime Minister appealed for those on all sides of the Brexit debate to back her deal, claiming it would protect United Kingdom jobs and security. May and her government objected to this ruling, saying that it was pointless because they planned to go through with Brexit. The amendment stipulates that Parliament can change that statement - effectively telling the government what to do.

"I never said this deal was flawless, it was never going to be".

Advocate general Manuel Campos Sanchez-Bordona's non-binding opinion said Article 50 allows the "unilateral revocation of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the European Union, until such time as the Withdrawal Agreement is formally concluded". The advice of the advocate general is often, but not always, followed by the full court.

"This is a huge win for us, and a huge step forward from the highest court in the business, and confirms what we have been hoping for: that the United Kingdom can indeed change its mind on Brexit and revoke Article 50, unilaterally", he said.

But the advice bolstered anti-Brexit campaigners, who hope the decision to leave can be reversed.

Following Tuesday's vote, the privileges committee will decide which ministers should be held accountable for this failure and what sanction to apply, with options ranging from a reprimand to a potential suspension from the House of Commons.

At a rowdy session of Parliament, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox outlined the legal advice he had given to the government, including over a "backstop" arrangement to prevent the return of a hard border between Northern Ireland and European Union member state Ireland if a future U.K. -EU trading deal is not reached in time.

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