Theresa May's government suffered an impressive defeat at the House of Commons on Tuesday, when the MPs voted it was in contempt of the Parliament. The government ministers were ordered to publish the full legal advice by Attorney General Geoffrey Cox on Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit withdrawal deal.
The Brexit legal advice revealed "central weaknesses in the Government's deal" and it is "unthinkable the Government tried to keep this information from Parliament," Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer said upon the partial release of the document.
The document was shared with British lawmakers on Wednesday, and upon its release the MPs shared their opinions on the contents of the paper.
One of the signatories to the motion that triggered the contempt of parliament vote, Green Party's Caroline Lucas, posted her thoughts on the details of the advice.
Para 30: The review mechanism does not provide a unilateral route out of the backstop. 2/4 pic.twitter.com/W2IcocKjnL— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) December 5, 2018
And the *really* weird thing is that the date on the Attorney General's advice suggests that the Cabinet did not get any formal legal advice from him before 13 November — the day MPs first asked for it to be published… 🤔 4/4 #Brexit #Art50 pic.twitter.com/88ZY8Dju31— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) December 5, 2018
Lucas noted that the legal counsel said there was no mechanism for Britain to lawfully exit the UK-wide customs union without a subsequent agreement.
Another concern for MPs was the advice suggestion that Britain could be trapped "indefinitely" in a customs union with the EU if lawmakers back Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal.
"Despite statements in the Protocol that it is not intended to be permanent and the clear intention of the parties that it should be replaced by alternative, permanent arrangements, in international law the Protocol would endure indefinitely until a superseding agreement took its place," the advice said.
The suggestion that Britain would essentially treated as a third country by Northern Ireland for goods passing the UK to Northern Ireland saw the DUP's Nigel Dodds respond:
Devastating from AG….The legal advice just published proves NI would be in full EU Customs Union while GB is not. Goods passing from GB to NI will be subject to a declaration process. “GB is essentially treated as a third country by NI for goods passing from GB into NI”— Nigel Dodds (@NigelDoddsDUP) December 5, 2018
No wonder they tried to hide the legal advice https://t.co/zqk9Dt34H2— Nigel Dodds (@NigelDoddsDUP) December 5, 2018
A Liberal Democrat MP and a signatory to the contempt of parliament motion, Tom Brake, also reacted to the legal advice provisions and called for a "People's Vote" — a campaign urging a public vote on the final Brexit deal between the UK and the EU.
Britain is set to leave the European Union on March 29, 2019 but Theresa May's government has a number of obstacles to overcome to reach the deadline with the full support of the UK Parliament.
The House of Commons will debate the proposed Brexit withdrawal agreement until 12 December, with the vote of the document expected on December 11.
If the government fails to enlist the MPs's support, it will take Theresa May back to square one in her negotiations with the European Union leaders and all relevant parties.