Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Legal Advice on Brexit Deal 'Devastating' - MP

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Legal Advice on Brexit Deal 'Devastating' - MP

Article excerpt

Byline: ANDREW WOODCOCK Press Association

LEGAL advice provided to the Cabinet on Theresa May's Brexit deal has warned it could result in the UK becoming stuck for many years in "protracted and repeating rounds of negotiations" with no lawful power to exit.

And it made clear that Brussels could apply to an arbitration panel for Northern Ireland to remain in the EU customs area while the rest of the UK left. The six-page document by Attorney General Geoffrey Cox was released to MPs a day after the House of Commons found the Government in contempt of Parliament for trying to keep it secret.

The letter, dated November 13, emerged just minutes before Theresa May faced MPs in a weekly session of Prime Minister's Questions ahead of the second day of a five-day Commons debate on her deal.

Sir Keir Democratic Unionist Party leader Nigel Dodds described it as "devastating" and said it made clear that the proposed backstop arrangement for the Irish border was "unacceptable" and must be defeated.

The Scottish National Party's leader in Westminster, Ian Blackford, called on Mrs May to take responsibility for "concealing the facts on her Brexit deal" from MPs and the public.

But Mrs May rejected the claim, insisting the document contained the same information as a shortened statement made to MPs by Mr Cox earlier this week.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said that the 33-paragraph document revealed "the central weaknesses in the Government's deal". It is likely to be seized upon by Tory critics of Mrs May's deal, who argue that the backstop arrangement to keep the Irish border open will deny the UK the power to withdraw from a customs union without agreement from Brussels.

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". …

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