Government publishes legal advice on its own Brexit plan
Key legal advice given to the government about its Brexit deal with the EU has been published for the first time.
A 52-page summary of guidance given by Attorney General Geoffrey Cox has been unveiled, but Labour is pushing for the legal advice to be published in full and won a Commons vote on the matter last month.
It could threaten a “contempt of parliament” motion that would see the government punished for only releasing a summary.
There are four key takeaways from the legal advice summary:
:: Irish backstop will continue until a new agreement
Despite getting only one mention in the whole legal advice summary, the backstop is what divides most MPs about the government’s Brexit plan.
Known in the document as “the protocol”, the fall-back option to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland should come into effect after the transition period ends on 31 December 2021.
The backstop will apply and “continue to do so unless and until its provisions are superseded by a subsequent agreement between the UK and the EU establishing alternative arrangements,” the document confirms.
But it adds both sides want it to be “temporary” and that they hope “such a subsequent agreement” will be negotiated.
:: Clear evidence needed to leave the backstop by tribunal
If the UK wants to pull out of the backstop but the EU will not let it, a tribunal will be able to adjudicate and overrule it.
There must be a “clear basis” of a “breach of good faith” by Brussels for this to happen, the text says.
:: Extending the transition will have a cost
There is still a chance the backstop will never come into force.
Brexit Secretary Steven Barclay called it “very uncomfortable for both sides” on Monday.
That means when we get to the end of 2021 the UK could decide to ask for the transition period to be extended.
But that will come with a cost, the legal advice says, with a committee tasked with “deciding on an appropriate financial contribution”.
:: UK could be blocked from seeing sensitive security information
Despite maintaining a relationship during the transition period, the UK will have officially left the EU – and therefore not be a member.
The legal summary confirms that this means no UK representation in EU institutions.
It also raises the “possibility for the EU to exclude the UK from having access to ‘security related sensitive information’ in certain exceptional circumstances”.
What happens now?
Parliamentary sources have told Sky News the document published on Monday was in fact the glossary given to cabinet.
The actual legal advice, they said, is six pages long.
That will fuel further pressure on the government to publish it, as Labour and the Democratic Unionist Party join forces.
The Commons vote on the Brexit divorce deal is in eight days’ time. See how your MP is expected to vote.