UK: Brexit legal advice warns UK could be trapped in endless negotiations

The future of Brexit remains uncertain

The future of Brexit remains uncertain02:42

(CNN)Britain could be trapped in endless negotiations with the European Union by Theresa May’s Brexit deal, the British government’s top legal adviser has warned.

In the full written advice by the attorney general, which the government was forced to publish after lawmakers found it in contempt of parliament, ministers are warned that the “backstop” insurance policy relating to Northern Ireland could last “indefinitely” if relations with the EU break down.
The document was described as “devastating” by the Democratic Unionist Party, the small Northern Ireland party that has been propping up the UK Prime Minister in parliament.
    In the advice, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox warns that the Northern Ireland “backstop” could last “indefinitely until a superseding agreement took its place.” The UK could become involved in “protracted and repeating rounds of negotiations,” he warns.
    He advises that the so-called backstop would “endure even when negotiations have clearly broken down.”
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    The backstop is an arrangement designed to ensure there is no return to a “hard border” between Ireland, which will remain part of the European Union after Brexit, and Northern Ireland when the United Kingdom leaves the bloc next March.
    Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer, of the opposition Labour Party, tweeted: “Having reviewed the Attorney General’s legal advice, it’s obvious why this needed to be placed in the public domain.
    “All week we have heard from Government ministers that releasing this information could harm the national interest. Nothing of the sort. All this advice reveals is the central weaknesses in the Government’s deal.”
    Starmer said it was “unthinkable” that the government had tried to keep the advice from Parliament and the public before lawmakers vote Tuesday on the government’s Brexit deal.

    It is unthinkable that the Government tried to keep this information from Parliament – and indeed the public – before next week’s vote. 3/3

    — Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) December 5, 2018

    May suffered the worst day in Parliament for a British government in 40 years, losing three crucial votes related to Brexit.
    The unprecedented contempt vote was prompted by the government’s refusal to publish the full legal advice, despite having previously accepted a parliamentary motion directing it to do so.
      Cox had argued it was not in Britain’s national interest to publish it in full, and instead offered a summary to Parliament on Monday. “There is nothing to see here,” Cox insisted. May told her Cabinet on Tuesday that “candid” legal advice given to ministers must remain confidential.
      Starmer told the House of Commons that the government was “willfully refusing to comply” with the binding order issued by lawmakers. “That is contempt,” he said, adding that the government had ignored the motion for months.

      CNN’s Kieron Mirchandani and Lindsay Isaac contributed to this report.

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