The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at how UK Prime Minister Theresa May has managed to unite pro-European Labour MPs and Brexiteer conservatives by refusing to release the full ‘legal advice’ provided by UK Attorney General Geoffrey Cox.
According to Zerohedge, May is stoking suspicions that she is trying to hide the fact that the Brexit deal, as it’s currently written, could result in the UK being stuck inside the EU customs union in perpetuity – a scenario that Brexiteers have warned would reduce the UK to a ‘vassal state’ of Europe.
Angry ministers have threatened everything from calling a vote of no confidence in the government to holding Cox in contempt if No. 10 Downing Street doesn’t authorize the release of the unabridged legal advice. But in an act of defiance, May on Monday released a 43-page summary of the AG’s advice that one reporter said appeared to leave out most of the AG’s most controversial findings.
As we noted earlier, a leaked analysis shows that May lied to lawmakers when she said there was no risk of the UK being trapped inside the customs union. As the Guardian explains, while the text of the withdrawal agreement clearly states that any end to the ‘backstop’ must happen by consensus (which, assuming the backstop is eventually triggered, would happen once a new trade deal has been reached) between the UK and the EU. So Brexiteers’ warnings have a clear basis in the text of the agreement. However, many MPs are suspicions that AG Cox was more negative about this in private than he has been in public.
Some Labour MPs have warned that, by refusing, May has risked sparking a constitutional crisis. This is because MPs voted last month to force the government to release the legal advice “in full”. But May has effectively ignored these demands and continued to withhold Cox’s unabridged advice. The controversy has prompted at least one conservative MP, Sam Gyimah, to quit his cabinet post in protest, saying that releasing the unabridged advice is vital to “restoring trust in politics,” according to the BBC.
The UK has the power to unilaterally stop the Brexit process, the EU’s top legal advisers have said, contradicting statements from London that stated Article 50 could only be stopped with agreement of all 27 EU member states.
The Advocate General, in a report prepared for the European Court in Strasbourg, stated that the UK could suspend the already triggered two-year Article 50 process, according to a lawyer for the group that brought forward the case.
The advice comes just five days before parliament begins debating Prime Minister Theresa May’s largely unpopular Brexit deal, before voting on it on December 11.
“Advocate General Campos Sanchez-Bordona proposes that the Court of Justice should declare that Article 50 … allows the unilateral revocation of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU,” the bloc’s top court’s statement read.
“The UK parliament has to give its final approval,” wrote the advocate general, in the case of either a satisfactory withdrawal agreement being reached or in the absence of a satisfactory agreement.
This “would open the possibility for the UK to remain in the EU in the face of an unsatisfactory Brexit,” he added.
The Advocate General’s opinions are not binding, judges will now decide on whether or not to accept his advice, though they have a tendency to do so in most cases.
The statement added that it would be possible for the UK to announce its intention to stay in the bloc, up until such time that the withdrawal agreement was “formally concluded.”
It also stipulated that this needed to be in accordance with UK constitutional law, the European Council were informed and that is doesn’t involve and “abusive practice.”
The news will further hinder May’s plans to gain parliament’s approval for her EU withdrawal agreement. 16 weeks remain before Article 50’s deadline on March 29, should parliament reject May’s deal, as they are expected to do, the potential option to halt the process will look more attractive compared to the likely chaos of a no deal Brexit.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.