Backlash as government refuses to publish Brexit legal advice

PUBLISHED: 08:37 28 November 2018 | UPDATED: 09:23 28 November 2018

Prime Minister Theresa May. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire.

Prime Minister Theresa May. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire.

The government has become embroiled in a fresh row over the publication of the attorney general Geoffrey Cox's legal advice on the Withdrawal Agreement.

Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer is pressing ministers to comply with a binding Commons motion to publish the full advice after ministers dropped their opposition to the motion to avoid a damaging defeat.

However, Downing Street has only said the government would be releasing a “full reasoned position statement” laying its out political and legal position on the Withdrawal Agreement.

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Sir Keir Starmer has told the cabinet office minister David Lidington that the Commons “will accept nothing short” of the legal advice presented to cabinet.

He said: “During the debate it was made clear that the government accepted this limited and reasonable request. The speaker also confirmed the decision taken by the House was binding.”

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He added: “I’m writing to seek your urgent assurance that the government will comply with the motion in full and within the next couple of days.

“At this crucial stage parliament must be given the necessary information to know precisely what has been agreed to and what is being asked for a vote on.”

The prime minister’s official spokesman said the move was in line with an undertaking given to MPs in the House.

Brexiteer Sir Bill Cash backed Labour’s call to the government to release the full legal advice.

The veteran Tory MP said the public needed to know if Brussels had a veto over the UK leaving any backstop arrangement in Northern Ireland, arguing without it we would “never be able to leave the EU”.

Asked if the publication of a truncated version of the advice, known as a “reasoned political statement”, would be enough for him, Sir Bill said: “Well it doesn’t look like it.”

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