Archive This article is from our archive and might not display correctly. Download PDF
UK government in contempt of Parliament ahead of key Brexit vote
A succession of governments with a small majority or no majority at all, along with Brexit has made British politics a turbulent business in recent years. But even with all the twists and turns of the last few years the government being found to be in contempt of Parliament is a historic first in modern times and an extraordinary day for Westminster. On the 5th of December Members of Parliament voted 311 to 293 that the government had acted in contempt of Parliament; by not publishing the full legal advice surrounding Brexit, despite a binding vote in the Commons a week earlier requiring the government to publish legal advice on Brexit, ahead of a vote on May's deal on the 11th of December.
The government and May were hit by further blows as within the same hour the government lost two other votes; the first time since the 1970's that a government has lost three votes in the space of one day. Crucially one such defeat now means that if May's Brexit deal does not pass - which is looks almost certain not to - Parliament will now have a direct say on what happens next in such a scenario. Theresa May has continually insisted that the vote will not be postponed or pushed, despite many lawmakers urging her to do so to try and prevent a large defeat. As the key vote on the 11th of December looms closer one thing is clear; May is not giving up on her deal and is continuing with her customary perseverance or stubbornness depending on your view. In fact, in almost all instances where MP's in the House of Commons have criticised her deal they have started their speeches with a statement about how the MP respects how hard May has worked and continues to work.
I spoke to Rupa Huq MP about what the atmosphere was like in the Commons during that lively hour, she told me "On Tuesday they suffered 3 defeats in a row at a time of high drama. The subsequent debate saw MPs restless and the announcement of the figures was a time of high excitement. It's anyone's guess what happens next but the old adage of living in interesting times certainly applies." That certainly is the question that everyone is asking, what happens next? If May's deal is defeated then the door is very much wide open, to any option Parliament decides and quite possibly to Number 10 itself. The options are further widened by the verdict expected to be announced tomorrow, just the day before the key vote - the EU Court of Justice is expected to confirm that the UK Parliament could simply stop Brexit without needing the approval of the 27 other member states. This will embolden MP's seeking a second referendum but could cajole Brexiteer MP's into voting for May's deal fearing the alternative could be no Brexit at all. Theresa May has spent over two years negotiating this withdrawal agreement with the EU, in two days we'll see if all that was in vain or not. One thing is certain, Wednesday will be the host to one of the most important votes Westminster has held for decades, the consequences of the outcome however cannot be predicted.