May suffers historic defeat as Parliament takes back control of Brexit

Britain can unilaterally revoke Article 50 says top EU court lawyer

In a major blow to the government's Brexit plans, Conservative House leader Andrea Leadsom indicated the legal advice would be published on Wednesday.

At a rowdy session of Parliament, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox outlined the legal advice he had given to the government, including over a "backstop" arrangement to prevent the return of a hard border between Northern Ireland and European Union member state Ireland if a future U.K. -EU trading deal is not reached in time.

If the motion is passed government ministers would be found in contempt of parliament and forced to publish the advice in full.

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.

Minutes after the historic contempt vote, the Government went down to its third defeat in the space of an hour as MPs backed a move which could put Parliament in the driving seat if the Brexit deal is rejected on December 11.

The main opposition Labour Party's shadow Brexit secretary, Sir Keir Starmer, claimed the decision was of "huge constitutional and political significance".

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It is the first time a government has ever been held in contempt by parliament, and unquestionably further weakens the authority of Theresa May. "Over 100 Conservative MPs have said they are not going to back the deal, the Labour Party have said they are not going to back the deal".

We've tested the opinion of the House twice on this very serious subject.

The issue will also be referred to the Commons' Privileges Committee to determine which ministers are accountable for the alleged contempt and whether any subsequent punishment is required, she added.

Advocate General Manuel Campos Sanchez-Bordona told the European Court of Justice that EU law "allows the unilateral revocation of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU".

Sterling rose on hopes that the court advice would make a disorderly "no-deal" Brexit next March less likely.

That could reduce the likelihood of Britain leaving the European Union without any deal, prompting sterling to recover some of its losses after the vote on contempt drove it down to levels not seen since June a year ago. Rejecting it would leave the United Kingdom facing the prospect of a chaotic "no-deal" Brexit, but May's chances of winning majority backing for the deal appear slim.

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It lost that vote by 311 votes to 307.

Meanwhile, Mr Carney stepped up his warnings about the potential impact of a no-deal Brexit.

It means that instead of the government having to come back to tell MPs what their next steps are - and MPs voting on that - they would theoretically be able to vote on what they wanted the government to do as well.

Supporters of a harder Brexit insisted they were relaxed about the amendment on Tuesday, saying that even if a motion was amended by MPs - to call for a second referendum, for example - it would not be binding on the government.

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.

Since most lawmakers oppose a no-deal Brexit, they could essentially take that option off the table.

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