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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Britain’s Theresa May faces fresh crisis over Brexit legal advice

Despite opposition, a senior minister said a crunch parliamentary vote on the Brexit deal will not be pulled

Anti Brexit campaigners demonstrate in Westminster in London, Monday, Nov. 19, 2018. The EU nations and Britain are still negotiating the outline text of a draft Brexit deal, setting out their future relationship which will have to be ratified by both the British and the European Parliaments. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Anti Brexit campaigners demonstrate in Westminster in London, Monday, Nov. 19, 2018. The EU nations and Britain are still negotiating the outline text of a draft Brexit deal, setting out their future relationship which will have to be ratified by both the British and the European Parliaments. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Britain’s prime minister Theresa May faced a fresh crisis on Monday after opposition parties threatened to declare the government in contempt of parliament over the publication of legal advice on her Brexit deal.

In the final week before a crunch vote in parliament, Mrs May will hold face to face meetings with MPs to try to convince them to back the deal.

The attorney general Geoffrey Cox is scheduled to publish a reduced version of the Brexit legal advice on Monday.

But Labour and other parties including Mrs May’s allies, the DUP, have warned that if the government does not publish the full version of the legal advice it will launch contempt proceedings.

Shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti said that not complying with an order passed in the House of Commons last month requiring the government to publish “any legal advice in full” would create a constitutional crisis.

Critics of Mrs May’s government have accused ministers of trying to hide how closely tied to the customs union the UK will be until a new trade deal is worked out.

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson said in Britain's The Daily Telegraph newspaper that it was “outrageous that the public should be prevented from knowing the full legal implications of this appalling deal”.

While Sammy Wilson, leader of the DUP in Westminster, said parliamentarians in Northern Ireland needed to know what they were voting for.

"What we need to know is what legal advice has been given to the government about the extent of how Northern Ireland will be stuck in the backstop," he said.

The DUP have said they will vote against the Brexit deal in the vote on December 11, citing concerns over the backstop - an insurance policy measure designed to avoid a return to a hard border on the island of Ireland. If activated, the UK would not be able to unilaterally withdraw from the backstop without agreement from the EU.

Despite opposition to the deal, a senior minister said on Monday that there would be no delay to the crunch vote.

"I don't think there is any chance of pulling the vote. I just don't see that happening," home secretary Sajid Javid told the BBC. "This vote is taking place, as planned, and many MPs are considering how they may or may not vote."

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