Opposition parties launch contempt of Parliament case against Government over failure to publish full Brexit legal advice

Opposition parties launch contempt of Parliament case against Government over failure to publish full Brexit legal advice

Monday, December 3, 2018

The opposition parties, which contains Labour, the Green Party, SNP, DUP, Plaid Cymru and Liberal Democrats, have launched a case against the Government accusing them of contempt of Parliament over the failure to publish the full legal advice on Theresa May's Brexit plan. 

The parties have written to the Speaker John Bercow after the Government failed to produce the full legal advice surrounding the Prime Minister's Brexit deal. 

The letter states that the Government has "held Parliament in contempt" after a motion was put forward on November 13, calling for the legal advice to be published. 

The parties argue that because the motion was passed unanimously and not opposed by the Government, they have now committed contempt of Parliament by not publishing the advice in full. 

The letter states that on 13 November 2018 the House debated the following motion: “That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that she will be graciously pleased to give directions that the following papers be laid before Parliament: any legal advice in full, including that provided by the Attorney General, on the proposed withdrawal agreement on the terms of the UK’s departure from the European Union including the Northern Ireland backstop and framework for a future relationship between the UK and the European Union.”

The MPs are now calling for the Government to comply with the motion by publishing the full advice, ensuring it is made accessible for all MPs and that the MPs are given enough time to consider the information. 


A 43-page summary

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox faces questions from fellow MPs in the House of Commons. 

On Monday, the Government released a 43-page summary of the advice and the Attorney General Geoffrey Cox faced questions from MPs in the Commons. 

The Legal Position On The Withdrawal Agreement states: "The main provisions of the Protocol come into force from the end of the implementation period (31 December 2020 - see Article 185 of the Agreement) in the event that a subsequent agreement is not in place by then, and the Protocol will continue to apply unless and until it is superseded, in whole in or part, by a subsequent agreement establishing alternative arrangements (Article 1(4), and the fifth recital in the preamble)."

But if the implementation period is extended then the backstop will not apply until after the end of that period, the paper states.

"However, if the implementation period is extended in accordance with Article 3 of the Protocol and Article 132 of the Agreement, then the Protocol will not start to apply until after the end of that extended period. Certain provisions, relating to preparatory work or the obligation to use best endeavours to conclude an agreement to replace the Protocol, come into force immediately on the coming into force of the Agreement."


'We have been left with no option' 

Starmer wrote on twitter that the parties were left with "no option". 

He said: "The Government has failed to publish the Attorney General's full and final legal advice on the Brexit deal, as was ordered by Parliament.

"We have been left with no option but to write to the Speaker of the House of Commons to ask him to launch proceedings of contempt."

The letter is signed by Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer, the SNP's Europe spokesman Stephen Gethins, Liberal Democrats Brexit spokesman Tom Brake, the DUP's Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds, along with Plaid Cymru's Brexit spokesperson Hywel Williams and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.