Tom Brake’s letter to the Speaker

Yesterday, we reported on an argument over the publication of the full legal advice as given to the Government on the Brexit deal. However, it might be helpful to get a better sense of exactly what is being argued and why, so here’s Tom Brake’s letter to Speaker Bercow…

Dear Mr Speaker,

I am writing to you regarding the Government’s refusal to publish the full legal advice on the Brexit deal.

You will be aware that the House passed the following humble address:

‘That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that she will be graciously pleased to give directions that the following papers be laid before Parliament: any legal advice in full, including that provided by the Attorney General, on the proposed withdrawal agreement on the terms of the UK’s departure from the European Union including the Northern Ireland backstop and framework for a future relationship between the UK and the European Union.’

In responding to this address you noted that:

‘The ruling I give is simply that the motion is effective—I have been advised thus. It is not just an expression of the opinion of the House; it is an expression of the will of the House that certain documents should be provided to it.’

However, it now appears that the Government flagrantly intends to obstruct the full publication of the legal analysis and ignore the motion.

When the Government was previously accused of obstructing the release of impact assessments on sectoral analysis of the impact of Brexit, on November 28th, 2017, you stated that:

“A member wishing to allege a contempt should, in the first instance, raise it not in a point of order, nor indeed in the media, but by writing to me as soon as practicable after the member has notice of the alleged contempt or breach of privilege. I then decide whether or not the matter should have precedence … I am more than happy to confirm that my doors are always open for such written notices.”

I am therefore writing to you urgently to ask what steps Parliamentarians can take to ensure that the Government complies with a binding motion and publishes the full legal advice on the Government’s Brexit deal?

I hope that you will agree that a precedent was set with the publication of the legal advice relating to the Iraq war. Furthermore, leaving the EU is the single most important decision the UK will have taken in the last 50 years, and I hope that you will agree that requiring the Government to explain why they are seeking to withhold advice from Parliament is a reasonable request.

When the most critical decisions about the future of the UK are imminent, it is unthinkable that Parliament would not have the full legal advice to hand to ensure these critical decisions are taken with the best possible background information.

Thank you for considering this request and thank you in advance for your assistance.

I look forward to your response.

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