May's government found in contempt of Parliament over Brexit legal advice


The move came after opposition parties led by Labour and the Democratic Unionist Party attacked ministers for publishing only a summary of the Brexit advice, despite a vote on November 13 demanding full publication.

Minutes before May rose to speak, lawmakers delivered a historic rebuke, finding her Conservative government in contempt of Parliament for refusing to publish the advice it had received from the country's top law officer about the proposed terms of Brexit.

"We have therefore been left with no option but to write to the speaker of the House of Commons to ask him to launch proceedings of contempt", Labour's Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said. "By treating Parliament with contempt, the Government has proved it has lost its majority and the respect of the House".

But so far, Ms May has demonstrated that she is not for turning.

Following Tuesday's vote, the privileges committee will decide which ministers should be held accountable for this failure and what sanction to apply, ranging from a reprimand to a potential suspension from the House of Commons.

The opposition Labour Party, which pushed for the vote, was jubilant.

Such punishment is usually reserved for backbench MPs guilty of individual wrongdoing. But defeat would increase the chances of Britain leaving without a deal - a possibility that could mean chaos for Britain's economy and businesses - and put May under fierce pressure to resign.

Catherine Haddon, senior fellow at the Institute for Government, said the Opposition wanted to use "every opportunity they have to show the instability of the Government".

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It came in response to a letter from six political parties, including Labour and minority government partners the DUP.

A so-called "meaningful vote" on May's deal will take place in the Commons following parliamentary discussions on December 11.

MPs voted 321 to 299 in support on an amendment by Dominic Grieve, a Conservative MP.

He also told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The reality is that the position of the legal advice is a very straightforward and a very longstanding one".

Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom indicated the attorney general's full and final advice would be released on Wednesday.

With the prime minister's challenge in winning next week's vote looking all but insurmountable, MPs in the deeply-divided House of Commons are increasingly concerned about what happens next.

But the contempt vote sent sterling down against the dollar to $1.267, its lowest level since June 2017.