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Brexit – LIVE: Theresa May faces historic bid to hold government in contempt, as EU law chief says Article 50 can be revoked

Brexit – LIVE: Theresa May faces historic bid to hold government in contempt, as EU law chief says Article 50 can be revoked

Theresa May is facing an unprecedented constitutional row after the Speaker, John Bercow, said there was an “arguable case” the government had acted in contempt of parliament over the publication of key Brexit papers. Labour and other opposition MPs, including Ms May’s DUP allies, have tabled an emergency contempt motion after arguing that ministers have failed to comply…

Theresa May is facing an unprecedented constitutional row after the Speaker, John Bercow, said there was an “arguable case” the government had acted in contempt of parliament over the publication of key Brexit papers.

Labour and other opposition MPs, including Ms May’s DUP allies, have tabled an emergency contempt motion after arguing that ministers have failed to comply with a Commons resolution demanding the full legal advice on the prime minister’s Brexit deal.

The row heaps further misery on the prime minister as she was due to begin a five-day Commons debate on her Brexit blueprint, which culminates in a crunch vote that could threaten her leadership and her government.

See below for live updates

 

2018-12-04T10:03:40.000Z

Lord John Kerr, one of the architects of Article 50, has said the ECJ ruling shows the UK can still opt to change course on Brexit.
Reacting to the news, he said: “The choice facing us is not simply between the government’s deal and no deal. We can choose to change course. There is still time and, until the UK has left the EU, the Article 50 letter can be withdrawn.
“And despite some of the bogus claims that have been made by those who oppose staying in the EU, there would be no price to pay – political or financial – if we were to take back the Article 50 letter.
“With support growing across the country for a People’s Vote, it is clear to me that this is the best way forward.”

2018-12-04T09:47:25.000Z

What happens if the government loses the vote? Ashley Cowburn, our political correspondent, has taken a look at the ramifications.

Politically, it would be a major embarrassment for Theresa May’s government – the first in modern history to be found in contempt of Parliament. Hardly good timing for the prime minister, who today also kicks off the first of five days of debates on her Brexit deal.

On a practical level, the cross-party motion, if passed, will demand ministers publish the “full and final” legal advice on Ms May’s deal.

So far ministers have resisted such calls, even after a Commons motion was passed around two weeks ago requesting the government do so.

But a motion of contempt would ratchet up pressure on the prime minister to publish the legal advice – not just as “position statement” as was the case on Monday.

The motion does not place sanctions on individual ministers, but if the government again refuses to publish the legal documents upon losing the contempt motion, it appears likely the opposition parties in Westminster will push for further sanctions.

This could be brought against senior ministers in the government – most likely David Lidington, the cabinet office minister, or Geoffrey Cox, the attorney general. These ministers could face suspension from the chamber – and potentially miss the “meaningful vote” on the PM’s Brexit deal next week.

2018-12-04T09:32:32.000Z

Big story from our Europe correspondent Jon Stone – Britain can still cancel Brexit by revoking Article 50 without the consent of other EU member states, the European Court of Justice’s advocate general has said.
Full story here:

2018-12-04T09:18:43.510Z

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling defended the decision not to release the full Brexit legal advice.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The reality is that the position of the legal advice is a very straightforward and a very longstanding one.

“I’m a former Lord Chancellor, it is a central part of the principles of our legal system that the advice provided from a lawyer to their client is treated as confidential, it’s privileged information.

“Government has always behaved in that way and actually if government starts to have to publish every bit of legal advice it gets that is going to put us at a serious disadvantage when it comes, for example, to dealing with court cases with third parties.

“What we saw yesterday was the Attorney General, for the first time in a quarter of a century and more, coming to the Commons, taking detailed questions about the legal position, being very open about the legal position and providing parliament with the information it needs.

“I think that is the right approach.”

2018-12-04T09:04:29.166Z

Senior ministers are at risk of being suspended from parliament if the government is found to be in contempt, Lib Dem Brexit spokesman Tom Brake has said.

MPs are due to vote on a censure motion over ministers’ refusal to publish the full legal guidance on the Brexit deal, despite an order from the Commons to do.

The motion does not spell out any sanctions but if the government doesn’t comply, Labour is expected to seek further penalties, such as the suspension of attorney general Geoffrey Cox or David Lidington, the cabinet office secretary.

Mr Brake told BBC Radio 4’s Today that the 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”.

He said: “Clearly the Attorney General is the one who came to present the government’s case for not releasing this and I suppose he is in line for being in contempt, and I think the house should consider suspending him for that action.”

Asked whether any suspension should be immediate, he added: “I know the government would prefer to refer it to the privileges committee but I think that just kicks it into the long grass.

“We are going to have the debate to day and we are going to have to wait and see. But I think unless the Attorney General does a U-turn, I’m afraid that he is very much in the firing line.”

2018-12-04T08:46:38.273Z

Theresa May is facing a full-blown constitutional crisis after House of Commons Speaker John Bercow ruled that there is “an arguable case” her government acted in contempt of Parliament.
More here:

2018-12-04T08:28:53.186Z

Welcome to The Independent’s politics liveblog, where we will be bringing you the latest updates throughout the day.

 


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