May’s government faces contempt vote over Brexit legal advice

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government could be found in contempt of parliament on Tuesday for refusing to release its full legal advice on Britain’s exit from the European Union, underlining the depth of opposition to her deal with Brussels.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, December 3, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

The row threatens to overshadow the start of five days of debate in parliament on May’s Brexit deal ahead of a crucial vote on Dec. 11, when lawmakers will be asked to approve it.

Opposition parties and the small Northern Irish party which props up May’s minority government have condemned ministers for only providing an outline of the legal basis for its Brexit deal after parliament voted last month to force it to make public the full advice.

They have put forward a motion which, if passed following a debate later on Tuesday, would find government ministers in contempt of parliament and order the immediate publication of the advice.

It does not mention potential punishment but the sanctions ultimately available include suspending a lawmaker, most likely the Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, from parliament.

This would be unprecedented, with such punishment usually reserved for backbench lawmakers guilty of individual wrongdoing including financial misconduct. In reality, the vote is about putting pressure on an already weakened government.

“Symbolically it would be very significant. Parliamentarians do take the sovereignty and privileges of parliament very seriously, it would not be a hollow strike against the governmen

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