December 3, 2018 / 3:27 PM / 10 days ago

Britain's government at risk of contempt of parliament over Brexit advice

LONDON, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Britain’s opposition Labour Party said Prime Minister Theresa May’s government could face contempt of parliament action after only publishing on Monday a summary of the legal advice received on her Brexit deal with the European Union.

The advice is at the centre of a parliamentary battle, with the opposition Labour Party threatening to write to the Speaker of the House of Commons accusing the government of failing to comply with a legally binding vote last month.

The government instead published a 52-page document on Monday, which said Britain could be locked into a full customs union with the bloc to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland unless it is superseded by a new trade deal.

A Labour Party official said the government must provide the full legal advice.

“This falls far short of what parliament demanded. It is not the full legal advice,” an official said.

The government has resisted publishing the full advice saying it is covered by client confidentiality.

The threat of contempt proceedings is another hurdle for May to clear before parliament votes on Dec. 11 on her deal for Britain’s exit from the European Union, its biggest shift in foreign and trade policy for more than 40 years.

Under parliamentary rules, it is up to the Speaker, who chairs debates in parliament’s directly-elected chamber, to decide whether to allow a contempt motion to be voted upon.

If it passes, it would then be referred to a committee which would rule on whether contempt had taken place. If so, it would then recommend a punishment, which lawmakers must agree. (Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; editing by Michael Holden)

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