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Brexit legal advice says deal offers indefinite Irish backstop

Theresa May’s government has given in to pressure from all sides to publish the advice.

Image: Victoria Jones/PA Images

THE UK GOVERNMENT has published the legal advice it has received on the Brexit withdrawal agreement made with the EU, after sustained pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May.

May faces a tough battle to get her Brexit deal through parliament, and had been pressed by unlikely allies DUP, Labour and figures from within her own party to publish the advice from her Attorney General Geoffrey Cox.

May has ruled out holding a second referendum, urging MPs instead to approve the deal she has made with EU leaders.

The deal has proved highly divisive and all the signs point to MPs rejecting in a crucial vote next week.

Arlene Foster’s former special advisor Richard Bullick told RTÉ Radio 1′s Morning Ireland that the DUP was among a number of parties who’d joined forces to try to press May to release the legal advice. 

“We’re in incredibly unusual times and to some extent that will mean there will be strange, perhaps unholy alliances,” he said.

Despite the differences between the DUP and Labour, he said there is a “convergence of interests on this particular issue”.

The legal advice itself, has some stark warnings of the implications of Brexit which will make for grim reading for Brexiteers and remainers alike. 

For example, it says that in the event that if the transition period before Britain fully leaves the EU is extended for any reason, the UK will still have to pay money to the EU.

“During any extended implementation period, the UK would not be within EU budget arrangements… So the joint committee would decide on an appropriate financial contribution,” it says.

On the issue of a backstop in Northern Ireland, it says that if an alternative is not found before the end of the transition period in December 2020, then the backstop could remain indefinitely.

The backstop will “continue to apply unless and until it is superseded, in whole or in part, by a subsequent agreement establishing alternative arrangements”,” it says. 

May is addressing the House of Commons this afternoon, and she seeks to secure the support of her MPs for a Brexit deal that many find unpalatable.

Second referendum

The second referendum campaign has meanwhile gained momentum, particularly with the resignation of two ministers who have said another vote could be a way out of the current political impasse.

“There are no certainties in politics and in Westminster at the moment. But I am more positive and confident than I have ever have been since I’ve got involved in this campaign,” said Labour MP Chuka Umunna, a leading supporter.

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Around 100 anti-Brexit campaigners turned out for a demonstrations near Downing Street on the eve of the start of the parliamentary debate on the Brexit deal.

“This is for my grandchildren,” said Glenys Rampley, 74.

“It’s unfair for the young people of this country being deprived of the opportunities that the European Union offers,” she said.

Campaigners from the pro-Brexit Leave Means Leave also turned out for a demonstration outside the British parliament.

At the protest, Harry Todd told AFP he was representing the 17.5 million people who voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum.

“They are trying to sell off a Brexit which isn’t a Brexit,” he said, calling for a clean break with the EU.

With reporting from AFP, Órla Ryan, Gráinne Ní Aodha

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Sean Murray

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