Speaker backs Brexit contempt debate – BBC News
Brexit: A really simple guide
Commons Speaker John Bercow said late on Monday there was an “arguable case” that a contempt of Parliament had been committed.
However, the government then tabled an amendment to have the issue referred to MPs on the Privileges Committee to investigate whether its response fulfils all its obligations, taking into account any relevant past cases.
BBC political correspondent Iain Watson said any defeat over the legal advice would be likely to come as “an unwelcome distraction rather than a disaster” for the prime minister.
“While ultimately a parliamentary committee could decide to reprimand or suspend ministers, it’s highly likely no sanction would be applied before next week’s crucial vote on the Brexit deal,” he said. The crunch debate on Brexit deal
Opening what looks set to be the defining moment for her version of Brexit, Theresa May is expected to say the UK is on course for a “better future outside the EU” and that her deal “takes back control of our borders, laws and money”.
However, the prime minister faces opposition from MPs on all sides – including both the Leave and Remain wings of her own party – who argue that better deals could be available or that the public should have the final say in a referendum.
Many believe her deal is flawed because of a “backstop” that could keep the UK tied to EU customs rules in the event no future trade deal can be agreed. Some believe only the full legal advice will shed light on this. Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption Cox: Brexit backstop a ‘calculated risk’ for UK
On Monday, when he published an overview of his legal advice, the attorney general said releasing the advice in full would break a longstanding convention keeping legal advice to ministers confidential, but insisted there was no cover-up, telling MPs: “There is nothing to see here.”
Mr Cox accepted the backstop – designed to protect Northern Ireland’s peace process by preventing the return of customs posts and checkpoints on the Irish border – could leave the UK “indefinitely committed” to EU customs rules if Brexit trade talks broke down. How MPs’ Brexit debate and vote will work
The arrangement, which would apply to the entire UK, is supposed to be temporary. However, neither side could withdraw from it without the other’s consent.
Mr Cox accepted that signing up to it was a “calculated risk” but added: “I do not believe we will be trapped in it permanently.” How the debate will work
MPs will debate different aspects of the agreement, signed last month with EU leaders after months of wrangling, before voting on 11 December,
Senior ministers are being lined up to make the case for it. The first day of debate will be closed by Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay The second day, on Wednesday, will focus on security, with Home Secretary Sajid Javid opening the debate and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt closing it Thursday’s debate will be on the economy, with Chancellor Philip Hammond opening it and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox winding up
Further details have still to be announced but Mrs May will kick off proceedings by telling MPs: “The British people want us to get on with a deal that honours the referendum and allows us to come together again as a country, whichever way we voted.” Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption Brexit vote: Will MPs back deal in Commons?
Mrs May will argue her Brexit deal delivers on her commitments to end free movement and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.
It will leave Britain “as a globally trading nation, in charge of our own destiny and seizing the opportunities of trade with some of the fastest-growing and most dynamic economies across the world”, she will add.
Mrs May will say future trade talks with Brussels will also ultimately result in “a new free-trade area with no tariffs, fees, quantitative restrictions or rules-of-origin checks – an unprecedented economic relationship that no other major economy has”.
Labour is threatening a vote of no confidence in the government as part of a move to trigger a general election, if Mrs May is defeated on 11 December.
The party is in favour of Brexit but against Mrs May’s deal, which it argues will harm industry and cost jobs. It wants to delay Brexit to negotiate a better deal with Brussels. So could Brexit legally be cancelled?
The UK should be able to unilaterally cancel its withdrawal from the EU, according to a top European law officer.
The non-binding opinion was delivered by the European Court of Justice’s advocate general.
A group of Scottish politicians has asked the court whether the UK can call off Brexit without the consent of other member states. The Court of Justice will deliver its final ruling at a later date.
While the advocate general’s opinions are not binding, the court tends to follow them in the majority of its final rulings.
The advice from advocate general Manuel Campos Sanchez-Bordona was that if a country decided to leave the EU, it should also have the power to change its mind during the two-year exit process specified in Article 50 of the EU treaty.
And it should be able to do so without needing the consent of the other 27 member states. As things stand the two year deadline under the Article 50 process means Brexit will happen on 29 March, 2019.
Law officer says UK can cancel Brexit – BBC News
Brexit: A really simple guide
While the advocate general’s opinions are not binding, the court tends to follow them in the majority of its final rulings.
The anti-Brexit politicians and campaigners who have brought the case hope it will give MPs an extra option when considering whether to approve Mrs May’s draft deal or not, because it could keep alive the prospect of calling off Brexit – potentially through another referendum.
The ECJ statement said the advocate general had proposed that the Court of Justice should “declare that Article 50 allows the unilateral revocation of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU”.
It added: “That possibility continues to exist until such time as the withdrawal agreement is formally concluded.”
The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March next year, but the deal negotiated with the EU has to be backed by a majority MPs if it is to come into force.
Welcoming the advocate general’s opinion, SNP MEP Alyn Smith, one of those who brought the case, said it showed that “we now have a roadmap out of the Brexit shambles”.
He said parliament was not necessarily facing a choice between accepting Mrs May’s deal or leaving the EU with no deal, and that “there are other options, and we can stop the clock.” Who has brought the case? Image caption A group of politicians brought the case including (from top left) Catherine Stihler MEP; Joanna Cherry MP; David Martin MEP; (from bottom left) Alyn Smith MEP; Ross Greer MSP and Andy Wightman MSP
A cross-party group of politicians and campaigners including Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer, MEP Alyn Smith and MP Joanna Cherry of the SNP, and Labour MEPs David Martin and Catherine Stihler brought the case together with lawyer Jolyon Maugham QC, director of the Good Law Project.
They initially took it to the Court of Session in Edinburgh, which ultimately agreed to pass it to the ECJ.
Two attempts by the UK government to appeal against the referral to the European court were rejected, and the case was opposed by the government and the EU institutions in a hearing before all 27 ECJ judges last week . Can the UK parliament block Brexit?
Hubert Legal, the chief lawyer for the European Council, argued that allowing unilateral withdrawal could create “endless uncertainty” by allowing countries to announce they are leaving the EU in an attempt to secure better membership terms, before cancelling their withdrawal.
The UK government’s lawyers argued that the case was purely hypothetical as “the UK does not intend to revoke its notification”, and ECJ judges should therefore refuse to rule on it.
They added that the politicians behind the case wanted to use it as “political ammunition to be used in, and to pressure, the UK parliament”. Analysis by Clive Coleman, BBC legal correspondent
The advocate general’s opinion that the UK has the right to unilaterally withdraw Article 50 notification of its intention to leave the EU flies in the face of what the UK government and the EU want.
Although the Advocate General’s opinion is non-binding, the ECJ follow his opinions in the majority of cases.
The whole issue of revocation remains hypothetical at present because the government has made it clear there is no possibility of seeking to revoke the notice to leave the EU.
However, the statement raises the question of how the UK might revoke notification.
It would almost certainly need to be done by an act of parliament. If it was done by ministers alone using prerogative powers it would frustrate the will of parliament as expressed in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.
It should be noted that the statement and the case concerns revocation of notice to leave, and not a delay or extension of the two-year period provided for under Article 50.
That period can be extended, but only with the agreement of all of the other 27 EU states. Whereas extension of the Article 50 period could become a political necessity, revocation of Article 50 remains something of an academic point at present. However, that would change if there was a second referendum in which the British people voted to remain in the EU.
Ministers to publish full Brexit legal advice – BBC News
Ministers to publish full Brexit legal advice 4 December 2018 These are external links and will open in a new window Close share panel The government will publish its full legal advice on Theresa May’s Brexit deal after MPs found it in contempt of Parliament for not doing so.
The Commons supported a motion, backed by six opposition parties, demanding full disclosure by 311 votes to 293.
Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom indicated the attorney general’s full and final advice would be released on Wednesday.
An attempt by ministers to refer the whole issue to a committee of MPs was earlier defeated earlier by four votes.
David McGreavy: Triple child killer cleared for release – BBC News
These are external links and will open in a new window Close share panel Image copyright Rex Features Image caption David McGreavy was convicted of murdering the three children at their home in Gillam Street, Worcester A babysitter who killed three children and impaled their bodies on garden railings has been cleared for release.
David McGreavy was sentenced to life in 1973 for killing Paul Ralph, four, and his sisters Dawn, two, and nine-month-old Samantha in their Worcester home.
Their mother Elsie Urry told the Sun she had “begged” authorities that he stay locked up.
But a Parole Board document said over 45 years in custody he had “changed considerably”.
The board confirmed a panel had directed his release following an oral hearing.
McGreavy, who was the family’s lodger, claimed he killed the children because one of them would not stop crying.
He strangled Paul at the home in Gillam Street, Rainbow Hill, while Dawn was found with her throat cut. Samantha died from a compound fracture to the skull.
Ms Urry, who has also been known as Dorothy, previously said he should never be released .
She told the Sun: “What this animal did to my children was every bit as bad as what the Moors Murderers did.
“He put my babies on spikes for God’s sake – he mutilated them and they died in agony.”
She was reassured after his trial “his crime was so terrible he would never walk free again” and now felt “betrayed”. You may also be interested in
Khashoggi murder: CIA chief Haspel ‘to brief Congress’ – BBC News
Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption Senators slam Saudi crown prince as ‘crazy’ and a ‘wrecking ball’ US senators say they are more certain than ever after a private CIA briefing that the Saudi crown prince had a role in the murder of a journalist.
In a blistering attack, Senator Lindsey Graham said he had “high confidence” Mohammed bin Salman was complicit in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.
The South Carolina Republican described the Saudi royal as “a wrecking ball”, “crazy” and “dangerous”.
The Saudis have charged 11 people but deny the crown prince was involved.
Where the Saudi prince stands revealed Jamal Khashoggi: The story so far What did senators say? Members of the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations did not mince words after the briefing by CIA Director Gina Haspel on Tuesday.
“There is not a smoking gun – there is a smoking saw,” Mr Graham said, referring to Khashoggi’s alleged dismemberment in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.
The senator said he could not support Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the war in Yemen or arms sales to the Saudi government as long as the crown prince remained in power.
Senator Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, echoed those views.
He said the US must “send a clear and unequivocal message that such actions are not acceptable in the world’s stage”.
Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption The BBC’s Frank Gardner looks at what could happen to the man known as MBS Another senator, Bob Corker, told reporters, using the crown prince’s initials: “I have zero question on my mind that the crown prince MBS ordered the killing.”
The Tennessee Republican added: “If he was in front of a jury, he would be convicted in 30 minutes. Guilty.”
Mr Corker suggested that President Donald Trump had condoned the murder of a journalist by refusing to condemn the Saudi crown prince.
Fellow Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama said: “Now the question is, how do you separate the Saudi crown prince and his group from the nation?”
The Senate is planning to vote on a proposal to end US military support to the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, after members of both parties advanced the resolution last week.
Senator Chris Murphy, who was not privy to Tuesday’s briefing, criticised the Trump administration.
“Not everything needs to be secret,” the Connecticut Democrat tweeted.
“If our government knows that Saudi leaders were involved in the murder of a US resident, why shouldn’t the public know this?”
Image Copyright @ChrisMurphyCT @ChrisMurphyCT Report Image Copyright @ChrisMurphyCT @ChrisMurphyCT Report Senate aims to send tough message Analysis by Barbara Plett Usher, BBC News, Washington
Senators are trying to pressure the White House into condemning the Saudi crown prince. Failing that they are exploring ways to send a message of their own that the US will not tolerate the blatant violation of international norms.
Options include blocking or suspending arms sales and imposing tougher sanctions. In a significant rebuke to the Trump administration, senators have already voted to advance a measure that would withdraw US military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
But it won’t be easy to get the numbers to actually pass the resolution, at least not in its current form. One difficulty is that while there is a lot of anger over the Khashoggi affair, there isn’t agreement on the best way to respond. And any measures that senators might pass would almost certainly be blocked by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
So they would have to start over again when Democrats take control of the House next year, which they may well do. Given the legislative obstacles, and with full White House backing, Mohammed bin Salman doesn’t have too much to worry about, at least for now. But the Saudis won’t like being the ongoing object of Senate wrath, especially after paying millions and millions of public relations dollars to improve their image in Washington.
What has the CIA said? The CIA has concluded Mohammed bin Salman “probably ordered” the killing of Khashoggi.
The spy agency has evidence he exchanged messages with Saud al-Qahtani, who allegedly oversaw the Saudi reporter’s murder.
The CIA director – who has reportedly heard an audio recording of the murder – did not attend a recent congressional briefing by cabinet members, dismaying lawmakers.
The White House denied having a hand in Ms Haspel’s conspicuous absence, and the CIA said no one had told Ms Haspel not to attend.
At last week’s hearing, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis told senators there was no direct evidence of the crown prince’s involvement in Khashoggi’s death.
President Trump has said the CIA findings on the crown prince were not conclusive.
On 20 November he said: “It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t.”
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