Critical Brexit Debate

Last minute issues have the potential to alter the Brexit question and also affect what may happen next.  Two key factors have arisen in a day or so, the first is the question of whether the entire legal advice delivered to the British government should be made public or whether it is confidential and a summary alone should be presented to parliament and the country and today’s announcement by Advocate General Manuel Campos Sanchez-Bordona that, should it so desire, the UK could make a unilateral decision to revoke Article 50 with recourse to the EU member states for permission. 

The opinion of the most senior judge at the European Court of Justice invites the possibility of the UK cancelling Brexit and reverting to its previous status. The Avocate General’s opinions are not binding; however, they have considerable influence and are usually followed by the Court of Justice in any of the rulings.  The British government has always taken the position that it will not revoke Article 50.  There would have to be a vote in Parliament before such a thing could happen.  It has been suggested that Britain could revoke Article 50 and immediately trigger Article 50 again in order to gain more negotiating time.  This would no doubt be viewed as an abuse of process and be rejected.

A far more threatening situation for the government is the issue of whether the Attorney General Geoffrey Cox is going to be held in contempt of Parliament by refusing to publish the entire legal advice given regarding Mrs. May’s Brexit deal.  The previous head of the Criminal Prosecution Service and current Shadow Brexit Secretary, Keir Starmer, has called for a full disclosure or risk “historic constitutional row”.  This view is supported by John Bercow, the Speaker, who stated that there was "an arguable case" that the government had committed contempt by failing to publish the legal advice in full.

The two developments appeared just as Mrs. May is about to go through the most difficult debate of her career.  She faces a long and potentially bitter test when she tries to sell her hotly contested Brexit deal which is described by supporters as not the best.

The vote is likely to be close with only a few votes in the decision.