Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, has been urged to publish the legal advice that she receives on her Brexit deal after the DUP, the Labour Party, and eurosceptic Tories backed her into a corner.
The government backed down in a dispute over whether the advice from the attorney general – which usually remains private – should be given to MPs before the parliament votes on the Brexit deal.
The Labour Party urged for the unorthodox move because of the “exceptional” nature of Brexit. It was able to receive support from the DUP – which props up the government of PM May.
Conservative MPs from the hard Brexit European Research Group announced that they would abstain in any vote, influencing the government to accept the motion of the Labour Party instead of enduring an embarrassing defeat in parliament on Tuesday afternoon.
The de facto deputy prime minister, David Lidington, initially released a warning that giving in to the demands of Labour would see more than 5,000 documents detailing legal advice given over the course of the discussions released.
He then presented a compromise that would see a summary of the advice given by Geoffrey Cox, the attorney general, presented to the MPs.
Lidington stated: “We will make available to all members of the House, following the conclusion of negotiations, and ahead of the meaningful vote, a full, reasoned position statement laying out the Government’s both political and also legal position on the proposed withdrawal agreement. And that includes any protocols that might be attached to it.”
However, the Labour Party were unmoved by the offer. Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, stated: “Rather than fighting this unnecessary battle with parliament, the prime minister should accept the motion and agree to publish the full advice.”
The DUP supported the release of the advice so the MPs could see what the implications were for any backstop agreed for Northern Ireland.
Sammy Wilson, the Brexit spokesperson o the party, stated: “No one has compromised the government’s position more than the Government itself in these negotiations.”
He added: “They willingly accepted the EU agenda and timetable and sequencing for the negotiations. They uncritically accepted this nonsense of the backstop of Northern Ireland – a problem which doesn’t exist and which can be dealt with by the existing trade facilitation measures which are in place.”
The thought of the government ordering its MPs to abstain on any vote since it did not have the support of the ERG outraged Anna Soubry, an anti-Brexit Conservative MP.
She stated: “Who is running this country – the government or the ERG?”