U.K. won’t revoke Article 50, says May

PM insists that the only way to avoid a crash out of the EU is her withdrawal deal Britain won’t revoke Article 50 the triggering of which started the two-year Brexit process, Prime Minister Theresa May insisted on Wednesday, as Opposition parties rounded on the government over the full and final legal advice from the Attorney-General which it was forced to publish after becoming the first British government ever to be held in contempt of Parliament. Ms. May defended her deal, insisting that the only way for MPs to avoid a disastrous no-deal crash out of the EU was to vote for her controversial withdrawal deal that was ratified by EU leaders on November 25. Attorney’s advice However, parties, including the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland (on whose support the government has relied since the 2017 general election) and the Labour, the main Opposition, took aim at the legal advice from Attorney-General Geoffrey Cox that the government published on Wednesday morning after losing two votes in the House of Commons on Tuesday evening. While Nigel Dodds, the deputy leader of the DUP, described the legal advice as “devastating”, Labour’s Keir Starmer said it revealed the “central weakness” in the government’s deal. It was “unthinkable” that the government had attempted to keep information from Parliament, said Mr. Starmer The advice relates to the most controversial aspect of the withdrawal agreement, the Northern Ireland backstop. Backstop arrangements are provided for in the deal to ensure that there are no circumstances in which a hard border would form on the island of Ireland if talks broke down on future ties between the two sides. Many Brexit supporting MPs are concerned that this effective insurance policy, which would bring in a customs union, would lock Britain into an indefinite relationship with Europe — a concern confirmed by the legal advice. “In the absence of a right of termination, there is a legal risk that the U.K. might become subject to protracted and repeating rounds of negotiations,” the letter dated November 13 concludes. The letter also confirmed concerns that had been expressed by the DUP, which is adamant that different customs arrangement should not apply to Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. In the backstop arrangement, while Northern Ireland would remain in the EU single market for goods, Great Britain (the U.K. excluding Northern Ireland) would “essentially be treated as a third country”, requiring regulatory checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Mr. Dodds said their concerns had been “vindicated” with the letter’s publication. The week has been another tough one for the government, as an advocate general to the European Court of Justice confirmed that U.K. could revoke Article 50 unilaterally, and without the consent of other members.

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