How May’s legal advice triggered yet another crisis


This 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.

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