Theresa May endured a hat trick of defeats over Brexit in the Commons yesterday which included her Government being found in contempt of Parliament.
The contempt ruling is the first in history against a Government and means ministers must publish the full legal advice on Mrs May’s Brexit deal instead of a summary.
Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom confirmed shortly after the defeat that Attorney General Geoffrey Cox’s full advice would be released today.
MPs inflicted another defeat on Mrs May when a motion was passed by 321 votes to 299 giving them a say in the next steps if her deal is rejected on Tuesday.
Conservative rebel Dominic Grieve proposed the motion and 26 fellow Tories joined him to vote against the government.
The result could shift the balance of power from the government to Parliament and means that MPs could in theory vote on what to do next if Mrs May’s deal falls.
This would mean that the Government’s claim that the only choice is between the Prime Minister’s deal and a hard Brexit may longer apply.
In a third setback, ministers’ attempts to refer the legal advice row and the government’s conduct to the Commons Privileges Committee was lost by four votes.
The defeats came at the start of five days of debate on Mrs May’s proposed Brexit deal ahead of next week’s Commons vote, which she is expected to lose.
The Prime Minister told MPs yesterday that they had a duty to deliver on the result of the 2016 referendum and that her deal was an ‘honourable compromise.’
She said that divisions over Brexit had become ‘corrosive’ for UK politics and the country as a whole and that the issue must now be resolved.
The row over the legal advice on Mrs May’s proposed deal flared up after a summary was published, instead of the full version MPs voted for last month.
Attorney General Cox told the Commons full publication was ‘not in the public interest’ but the motion demanding disclosure of the complete report was carried by 311 votes to 293.
Six opposition parties backed the move and the Democratic Unionist Party, which has a parliamentary deal with the Conservatives, also voted against.
The privileges committee will now decide if any ministers should be held accountable over the contempt ruling. and if so what sanctions to apply.
If they decide there is a case to answer, the committee could take various punitive steps, from issuing a reprimand to suspension from the House of Commons.
Leadsom said she would be asking the committee to also consider the ‘constitutional implications’ of the contempt vote.