Ministers accused of misleading parliament over Brexit legal advice

PUBLISHED: 18:41 28 November 2018 | UPDATED: 18:41 28 November 2018

Chuka Umunna in the House of Commons (Photograph: Parliament TV)

Chuka Umunna in the House of Commons (Photograph: Parliament TV)


Ministers have been accused of breaking a "solemn promise" to release the full legal advice given to the government about its political declaration.

Remain Tory MP Anna Soubry said that analysis was promised to them “at that despatch box and in private” in return for pulling an amendment that would have bound the Treasury to provide it.

She said: “I would like to know please why that solemn promise has been broken.”

Labour MP Chuka Umunna said the decision was “totally unacceptable” and MPs had been “misled” by ministers.

“The minister has denied those assurances were given,” he said.

“There is no doubt about the promise that was made to us, in return for which we agreed not to put the amendment to a vote.

“Can he tell us why I should not think myself and Anna Soubry have not been misled?”

Treasury minister Mel Stride insisted promises had been kept but the end point “currently is unknown because it’s subject to detailed negotiation”.

Stride insisted “these reports deliver on what the minister said” by providing “a spectrum of potential outcomes”.

He added: “Therefore in order to fulfil the obligation made at this despatch box, we have made just that comparison - of the Chequers arrangement with the base case.”

Hilary Benn, Labour chairman of the Exiting the EU committee, said the government was unable to analyse the Political Declaration because “no-one has the faintest idea what kind of economic relationship will result from it” so had instead chosen to model the Chequers plan, which he said had already been “explicitly rejected” by the EU.

He said: “What is the purpose of trying to rest the government’s case about minimising economic damage to the country on an option that the EU has already told us it will not agree to.”

Yvette Cooper MP said that the House of Commons was being asked to vote on Brexit “blindfolded” without the full information required.

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