Brexit latest: MPs’ fury as legal advice on Brexit reveals ‘EU trap’

Thu, 12 / 2018 9:11 pm | admin_ve440w82

Theresa May

Theresa May’s Brexit plan is at risk (Image: – )

Goods being traded between Great Britain and Northern Ireland could be subject to customs checks, effectively creating a border down the Irish Sea. 

The Democratic Unionist Party said the advice was “devastating” and savaged the Prime Minister, who relies on DUP support in Parliament, for failing to keep her promises.

The DUP’s deputy leader, Nigel Dodds, said: “This is totally unacceptable and economically mad in that it will be erecting internal economic and trade barriers within the United Kingdom.”

Mr Dodds said backstop plans, designed to stop a hard border in Ireland, must be defeated.

He added: “This advice concisely sets out the stark reality of the operation of the backstop.

“Its publication demonstrates how the Prime Minister has failed to abide by the commitments she gave in that the United Kingdom as a whole would leave the European Union and that she would ensure there would be no customs or regulatory divergence within the United Kingdom.”

Conservative Marcus Fysh, one of more than 100 Tory MPs preparing to oppose Mrs May’s exit package when it goes before the Commons next week, said the legal advice confirmed the deal was “totally unacceptable”.

He said: “I don’t see how any member of Parliament can think it’s appropriate to vote for the withdrawal agreement.

“I’m astonished the Government has even brought it this far.”

The six pages of legal advice by Attorney General Geoffrey Cox QC were released to MPs a day after the House of Commons found the Government in contempt of Parliament for trying to keep it secret.

Clashes The Scottish National Party’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford accused Mrs May of “concealing the facts on her Brexit deal” during clashes at Prime Minister’s Questions.

He claimed the release of the legal advice showed that the Prime Minister “has been misleading the House, inadvertently or otherwise”.

Mrs May insisted the advice was “no different” to the statement made by Mr Cox on Monday.

She told MPs there was “no unilateral right” to pull out of the backstop, but said it was “not the intention of either party” that the backstop should be used in the first place.

Geoffrey Cox

Mr Cox warned the UK would have no legal means of forcing the EU to bring the measures to an end (Image: Getty)

Brexiteers said the documents released by the Government still did not contain the full legal advice given by Mr Cox to the Cabinet.

Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom warned MPs that they would “live to regret” voting to force ministers into releasing the usually confidential guidelines.

She said: “Going forward, not only will Government ministers be very careful about what they ask law officers to give advice on, but law officers themselves will be very reluctant to give any advice to Government that they might then see published on the front pages of the newspapers, so it’s the principle of the thing.

“And frankly, I think any parliamentarian who wants at some point in the future to be in government is going to live to regret their vote last night.”

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Mr Cox found that the protocol setting out the terms of the backstop “does not provide for a mechanism that is likely to enable the UK lawfully to exit the UK-wide customs union without a subsequent agreement”.

He said: “This remains the case even if parties are still negotiating many years later and even if the parties believe that talks have clearly broken down and there is no prospect of a future relationship agreement”.

Great Britain would be “essentially treated as a third country” by Northern Ireland for regulations on trade in goods, Mr Cox said.

Commons leader Andrea Leadsom

Commons leader Andrea Leadsom (Image: Matt Crossick/Empics)

Despite assurances from both London and Brussels that the arrangements would only be temporary, the protocol would “endure indefinitely” under international law until another agreement takes its place.

Mr Cox warned that the UK would have no legal means of forcing the EU to bring the measures to an end. The document states: “In the absence of a right of termination, there is a legal risk that the United Kingdom might become subject to protracted and repeating rounds of negotiations.

“This risk must be weighed against the political and economic imperative on both sides to reach an agreement that constitutes a politically stable and permanent basis for their future relationship.

“This is a political decision for the Government.”

If Brussels decided that negotiations on a trade deal had broken down or were taking too long, it would be able to apply to an arbitration panel for Britain to be removed from the customs union while Northern Ireland remained in.

This would effectively create the border in the Irish Sea that Mrs May has always insisted no prime minister could accept.

ERG chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg

ERG chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg (Image: Getty)

Mr Dodds held a meeting with the Conservative European Research Group (ERG) of Brexiteers, which was also attended by Chief Whip Julian Smith.

ERG chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg said Mr Dodds told them the DUP would support the Government in a confidence motion if the Withdrawal Agreement was voted down. But if the deal goes through, the party is likely to pull its support, which could lead to a general election.

Former Tory minister Grant Shapps said the legal advice underlined how the deal could “remove power” from the Commons and UK.

He said: “For the first time as a Member of Parliament I find myself at odds with my own government.

“With no sign of a solution, certainly not in the Attorney General’s legal advice, I am afraid I’m left contemplating my vote next Tuesday. “I’m currently minded to vote against.”

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