Unionists join Labour in call for Brexit legal advice to be released by PM May
The Ulster Unionist Party and DUP have added their voice to the growing calls for Theresa May to release the Government's full legal advice on the Brexit deal.
Labour said it is ready to combine with other opposition parties to start proceedings for contempt of Parliament unless the legal opinion of Attorney General Geoffrey Cox is published in full.
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Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson challenged the Government to reveal what legal advice they received before signing up to the backstop in December 2017.
“The Government should do the right thing and publish the legal opinion which the Cabinet received from the Attorney General regarding the draft Withdrawal Agreement without any further delay," he said.
"The Government are using ‘convention’ as an excuse not to publish the legal advice, however these are exceptional circumstances. The decisions made in Westminster in the coming days will have huge constitutional and economic implications for the whole of the United Kingdom for decades to come. It is only right that the political representatives making those decisions are fully briefed and advised of the potential legal repercussions."
The DUP – which props up the Conservative government in the Commons – was said to be ready to sign a joint letter with other parties to Speaker John Bercow on Monday unless ministers back down.
The latest row erupted as it was reported Mr Cox – who is due to make a statement to the Commons on Monday – had warned the UK could be tied to the EU customs union “indefinitely” through the Northern Ireland “backstop”.
The Sunday Times said in a letter sent last month to Cabinet ministers, he advised the only way out of the backstop – designed to prevent the return of a hard border with the Republic – once it was invoked was to sign a new trade deal, a process which could take years.
“The protocol would endure indefinitely,” he is reported to have written.
The letter was said to be so sensitive that ministers were given numbered copies to read which they were not allowed to take from the room afterwards.
Mr Nicholson said: “The more that the government prevaricates, it creates the impression that they’ve got something to hide. It not only undermines any support that the Prime Minister may have been hoping to garner for the draft Withdrawal Agreement, but it also undermines confidence in the government itself."