May’s legal advice triggered yet another crisis

Written by Joana Ramiro, LabourList

|AIWA! NO!|Yesterday morning, Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer’s team published a series of tweets with snippets of the government’s legal advice on withdrawing from the European Union. And in a series of highlighted passages we can see why.

Northern Ireland would effectively end up as a separate entity to Britain, being the only British region with access to the single market. Meanwhile, negotiations with Brussels would continue “until a superseding agreement” took over from the current agreed protocol.

Starmer himself seemed shocked at the advice from the Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, saying: “Having reviewed the Attorney General’s legal advice, it’s obvious why it needed to be placed in the public domain. All week we have been told by government ministers that releasing this information could harm the national interest but the advice contains nothing of the sort.”

He added that having kept the information from parliament ahead of the vote on December 11th was in retrospect “unthinkable”.

The six-page letter from Cox addressed to the Prime Minister outlines how the current deal, built in order to avoid a ‘hard border’ in Ireland, would in fact create a possibly unsolvable state of stalemate in EU-UK diplomacy. Indeed, he writes, it “does not provide for a mechanism that is likely to unable the UK lawfully to exit the UK wide customs union without a subsequent agreement”.

He added: “In the absence of a right of termination, there is a legal risk that the UK might become subject to protracted and repeated rounds of negotiations…

“This remains the case even if parties are still negotiating many years later, and even if parties believe that talks have clearly broken down and there is no prospect of a future relationship agreement. The resolution of such statements would have to be political.”

With the Brexit debate reaching the end of its second day, Theresa May’s confidence is clearly starting to wear off. Rumours of Labour calling for a motion of “no confidence” in the PM if parliament rejects the final deal next week swirled around Westminster. Especially since the move could lead to a new general elections being called on no other than December 25th, i.e. Christmas Day.

Brexit deal legal advice Theresa May tried to withhold from parliament

Here's the Brexit deal legal advice Theresa May tried to withhold from parliament
Thomas Colson 
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Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street, London
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street, London Reuters / Henry Nicholls

Downing Street has published the legal advice it was given on Theresa May's Brexit deal by the government's top law officer, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox.

The Prime Minister caved in moments after MPs decided her ministers were in “contempt” of Parliament.

THOMAS COLSON, BUSINESS INSIDE UK|AIWA! NO!|The government tried to prevent the full legal advice being published, and MPs found the government in contempt of parliament for refusing a demand to do so.

  • Downing Street has published the legal advice it was given on Theresa May’s Brexit deal by the government’s top law officer, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox.
  • Here’s everything you need to know about the legal advice the government tried to withhold.

LONDON — The government has published the full legal advice it was given on Theresa May’s Brexit plan after MPs found the government to be in contempt of parliament for refusing to do so. 

The advice, from Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, the country’s top law officer, examines the legal effect of the proposed backstop arrangement, or Northern Ireland protocol, which is a fallback measure designed to maintain an invisible border in Ireland.

The measure is deeply unpopular among Brexit-supporting MPs because would keep the UK in the customs union and Northern Ireland even more closely aligned to the EU, as well as requiring checks on goods moving between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

Here’s what you need to know about Cox’s legal advice:

  • Cox warns that the backstop arrangement contained within the withdrawal agreement would “endure indefinitely,” a phrase which has enraged Brexiteers who say it would represent an incomplete Brexit.
  • It confirms the government does not have the right to withdraw from the backstop unilaterally, something Brexiteers have advocated.
  • There is a legal risk that the UK could become stuck in “protracted and repeating rounds of negotiations” with Brussels. 
  • The date on the Attorney General’s advice is 13 November, the same day MPs asked for the advice to be published. This could mean that the government had not actually received any formal legal advice on the Withdrawal Agreement before, despite May publishing her formal Brexit plan weeks earlier.
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Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said: “Having reviewed the Attorney General’s legal advice, it’s obvious why this needed to be placed in the public domain.

“All week we have heard from Government ministers that releasing this information. could harm the national interest. Nothing of the sort. All this advice reveals is the central weaknesses in the Government’s deal.

“It is unthinkable that the Government tried to keep this information from Parliament — and indeed the public — before next week’s vote.”

The government had refused previous requests to publish the advice, which comes just a week before MPs vote on the deal itself, saying it would set a dangerous precedent if the Attorney General could not provide the Prime Minister with honest, confidential legal advice without fear of it being made public.

Cox instead published a 48-page legal commentary outlining the advice he had provided on the Brexit plan and was grilled by MPs in the Commons for two hours on the subject on Monday.

But MPs voted 311 to 293 to find May’s government in contempt on Tuesday afternoon, forcing Downing Street to publish the advice in full. It was the first time in British parliamentary history the government has been found in contempt by MPs.

UK Right-Wing Activist Tommy Robinson Formally Released From Bail

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AIWA! NO|English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was released on bail on Monday. The right-wing activist was released after a court hearing on his contempt of court case.
A brief hearing at the Old Bailey in London determined that Mr. Robinson was free on bail after his contempt of court case was passed to the Attorney General.

READ RELATED: BREAKING: Tommy Robinson freed from bail as ex-EDL leader waits for ‘£1m’ US trip visa

“This is simply to indicate in open court that now the matter has been referred to the Attorney General, Mr Yaxley-Lennon is no longer on bail to this court,” Judge Nicholas Hillard QC stated.

“As there is no bail, there are no bail conditions.”

Robinson was freed from prison in August after three leading judges quashed a contempt of court finding made at Leeds Crown Court.

But he could be sent back to jail if he is again found in contempt for filming people in a Huddersfield grooming trial in Leeds and broadcasting the footage on Facebook.

The court heard he denied breaching the Contempt of Court Act and making a broadcast likely to seriously prejudice the trial.