Six opposition parties have signed a letter requesting the Speaker of the House of Commons to launch ‘contempt of parliament’ proceedings against the Government after attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, refused to publish secret legal advice on Brexit plans to the House of Commons.
Cox, the most senior legal aid in Government, sparked widespread anger after publishing only a summarised version of the government’s legal position on Brexit instead of the full legal advice demanded by MPs in November 2018.
Geoffrey Cox, attorney general, has said that publishing the full legal advice of the deal would ‘not be in the public interest’. Cox gave his statement in the House of Commons on Monday. He claimed that the deal on offer is a ‘sensible compromise’. Jacob Rees-Mogg, Conservative MP, challenged him for not obeying the will of the House.
In response to criticism from across the House, Cox said: ‘I sincerely believe it would not be in all of our interests.’
Six opposition parties have signed a letter requesting the Speaker of the House of Commons to launch ‘contempt of parliament’ proceedings against the Government.
The Government has failed to publish the Attorney General's full and final legal advice on the Brexit deal, as was ordered by Parliament.
We have been left with no option but to write to the Speaker of the House of Commons to ask him to launch proceedings of contempt. pic.twitter.com/LNfUmHg7Tb
— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) December 3, 2018
If the motion is followed through, Cox could face suspension or even expulsion from the Commons, a fate only a few MPs have faced over the years. This would be a disaster for Theresa May who sent Cox out today to sell her Brexit plan.
Speaking in the House on Monday, Cox urged MPs to be patient and said detaching from 45 years of European membership will take time to work out.
He told MPs the UK would be “indefinitely committed” to EU customs rules if Brexit trade talks broke down, and there was no unilateral right for the UK to pull out of the Irish backstop, which would come into force if no permanent trade deal with the EU is reached. He said: “There is no point in my trying or the government trying to disguise that fact.”
Comment from Thomas Howard-Editor
The attorney general appears to be defying the will of the House of Commons. He is refusing to publish the full legal advice issued to the Government.
It appears that the government is intent on withholding this information – despite a vote to release the legal advice in November 2018.