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Pound drops to 2017 lows after government contempt vote

05 December 2018

He was there, ostensibly, to explain why the government has - despite a motion laid by MPs - decided not to publish his full legal advice on the Brexit deal, releasing a summary instead.

At times, the Attorney General Geoffrey Cox looked overwhelmed with emotion as he listened to colleagues giving character references that might spring him from the contempt charge.

The government had attempted to have the issue referred to the cross-party Privileges Committee in a prior vote but the proposal was defeated by four votes.

But it does highlight how little control May's fragile minority government has over MPs ahead of next Tuesday crucial vote.

The government is facing a vote today over whether it is in contempt of Parliament by refusing to publish its own Brexit legal advice.

Dominic Grieve, which passed tonight, allows a coalition of opposition and Tory dissident MPs to instruct the government on policy on Brexit if the government comes back a second time to the Commons after a first time defeat next week.

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Mr Bercow was responding to a call from senior MPs in six parties - Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP, the Democratic Unionist Party, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party - for contempt proceedings to be launched.

Conservative House leader Andrea Leadsom told MPs that May's government had a right to receive confidential opinions that were unhampered by political considerations.

Despite her entreaties, the government appeared to be on a collision course with an increasingly assertive Parliament over the next steps in the U.K.'s exit.

The formal advice from a European Court of Justice advocate general - not binding but usually heeded by the court - suggested to some lawmakers that revoking the "Article 50" divorce notice was an option.

But he was also there not just to defend the prime minister, but to try and sell her deal to recalcitrant Conservative MPs by attempting to reassure them that her Brexit compromise - despite having "unattractive, unsatisfying elements" - was not going to trap the United Kingdom into a customs union with the EU forevermore.

That result - which could prevent a "no deal" Brexit - saw the pound rise back to where it started the day, rounding off a rollercoaster day for sterling.

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"This is a huge win for us, and a huge step forward from the highest court in the business, and confirms what we have been hoping for: that the United Kingdom can indeed change its mind on Brexit and revoke Article 50, unilaterally", he said.

The Prime Minister will begin five days of Commons debate on her Brexit plan before a major test of her authority in a crunch vote on December 11.

A small number of Labour rebels could support her, but the party's official position is to vote against the deal. "The Grieve amendment gives teeth back to the House of Commons so MPs can have some real bite".

They may try to alter or delay Brexit, or derail it altogether, but her team is sticking to the script.

Prime Minister Theresa May's government also argues that during the deal's implementation period, the United Kingdom will negotiate a trade agreement with the bloc that will make the Irish backstop unnecessary.

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Pound drops to 2017 lows after government contempt vote