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By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
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By Mineral Products Association

Pressure mounts on Theresa May as whole Cabinet demands to see Brexit legal advice

3 min read

Theresa May is facing calls from her entire Cabinet to reveal the legal advice she receives on her proposed Brexit deal before they sign up to it.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove led the demand at yesterday's three-hour Cabinet meeting, and PoliticsHome understands that every minister present backed the move.

Heaping further pressure on the Prime Minister, DUP chief whip Jeffrey Donaldson also said the legal advice should be published, as have Labour and the Lib Dems.

Cabinet ministers fear that the Prime Minister may only present an executive summary of the guidance she is given on the so-called "backstop" arrangement aimed at avoiding a hard border in Ireland.

Mrs May wants to keep the whole of the UK in a customs arrangement with the EU until a trade deal can be agreed, but Brexiteers fear that could leave Britain tied to the bloc indefinitely.

To avoid that, the Prime Minister wants to agree a review mechanism with Brussels which would allow both sides to jointly decide when to bring the backstop to an end.

At yesterday's Cabinet meeting, attorney general Geoffrey Cox - the Government's most senior lawyer - gave his backing to such an arrangement.

But his colleagues around the table said his full legal advice to the Prime Minister must be made available for them to analyse.

Backing the calls this morning, Jeffrey Donaldson told the BBC's Today programme: "It’s in the public interest that we understand fully what is happening here. We’ve had that commitment already from the Government, that they will tell us what the legal advice they have is in relation to the backstop.

"If the House of Commons is going to have a meaningful vote on a deal upon which this legal advice is very important, then I think people are entitled to know what that legal advice is."

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said: "Any agreement on the backstop can’t simply be a fudge that’s cobbled together to satisfy Theresa May’s Cabinet. 

"It must be a robust and credible proposal that guarantees there will be no return to a hard border in Northern Ireland after Brexit. 

"That’s why it’s essential MPs are given the opportunity to scrutinise the attorney general’s legal advice before voting on the final deal. The public have the right to know precisely what the Cabinet has signed up to and what the implications are for the future.

"At this crucial stage, Parliament should not be kept in the dark nor should the Government try to bounce MPs into an agreement without all the facts."

Tom Brake, the Lib Dems' Brexit spokesman, said: "Refusing to publish legal advice on Brexit makes a mockery of the discredited mantra 'Take Back Control'. Choosing to withhold this information from the public raises serious questions about what Tory ministers are trying to hide."

Downing Street has been contacted for comment.

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