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News | Published November 07 2018

Gove puts pressure on government to release Brexit legal advice

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, is now the most senior politician to express a desire to see legal advice on a potential Brexit deal.

Attorney-General, Geoffrey Cox, has provided the prime minister with legal advice on a possible post-Brexit ‘backstop’ arrangement, particularly with respect to the Northern Irish border. Although pressure had been mounting on May prior to this, Michael Gove is the latest and most senior figure to have requested this publication.

Cox gave this advice in an abbreviated form in a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, but Gove is asking for a more detailed summary of the findings. It appears that Gove’s principal concern is that Northern Ireland would remain in the customs union, and that the rest of the United Kingdom would have to, in effect, emulate these rules. A key Conservative ally, the DUP, has gone even further in asking for it to be released in full.

Highlights
  • Michael Gove asks for details of legal advice on Brexit provided by Attorney-General, Geoffrey Cox
  • Adds to existing pressure from other parties
  • Concerns raised over the progress of Brexit talks

Prior to this, pressure had already been put on Theresa May from party-political foes such as Labour’s Keir Starmer (shadow Brexit secretary) who asked for a detailed summary, adding “The public have the right to know precisely what the cabinet has signed up to and what the implications are for the future”

Tom Brake, the Lib Dems’ Brexit spokesperson, also remarked, “Refusing to publish legal advice on Brexit makes a mockery of the discredited mantra ‘take back control’”

Now, however, the prime minister has to contend with someone from her own government who was a leading figure in the Leave campaign. Added to this are the widespread concerns that an acceptable deal is not forthcoming. Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief negotiator, for example, said that it was obvious that “more work is needed".

Echoing this concern was Jeffrey Donaldson, chief whip of the DUP, who said:

“We haven’t got a deal at the moment, and it’s clear from the rhetoric coming from both Brussels and Dublin that they are so far opposing what the prime minister has suggested in terms of pragmatic arrangements to deal with the Irish border.”