The Speaker
Friday, 14 June 2024 – 09:45

Contempt of Parliament: How it could result in humiliation for Theresa May

Today, MPs are currently debating whether the Government stands in contempt of Parliament for refusing to publish the full legal advice on Theresa May’s Brexit deal, in a constitutional battle that could have far-reaching implications.

Theresa May is facing an unprecedented constitutional row after the Speaker, John Bercow, said there was an “arguable case” the government had acted in contempt of parliament.

Labour and other opposition MPs, including Ms May’s DUP allies, have tabled an emergency contempt motion after arguing that minsters have failed to comply with Commons resolution demanding the full legal advice on the prime minister’s deal.

The row heaps further misery upon the prime minister as she was due to begin a five-day Commons debate on her Brexit blueprint, which culminates in a crunch vote that could threaten her leadership and her government.


How will the debate work?


MPs will debate different aspects of the agreement, signed last month with EU leaders after months of wrangling, before voting on 11 December.

Senior ministers are being lined up to make the case clear for it.

  • The first day of debate will be closed by Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay.
  • The second day, on Wednesday, will focus on security, with Home Secretary Sajid Javid opening the debate and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt closing it.
  • Thursday’s debate will be on the economy, with Chancellor Phillip Hammond opening it and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox winding up.


Could Brexit be cancelled?

The UK should be able to unilaterally cancel its withdrawal from the EU, according to a top European law officer.

The non-binding opinion was delivered by the European Court of Justice’s advocate general. 

A group of Scottish politicians has asked the court whether the UK can call off Brexit without the consent of other member states. The Court of Justice will deliver its final ruling at a later date.

While the advocate general’s opinions are not binding, the court tends to follow them in the majority of its final rulings.

The advice from advocate general Manuel Campos Sanchez-Bordona was that if a country decided to leave the EU, it should also have the power to change its mind during the two-year exit process specified in Article 50 of the EU treaty.

And it should be able to do so without needing the consent of the other 27 member states. As things stand the two-year deadline under the Article 50 process means Brexit will happen on 29 March, 2019.

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