May suffers 3 defeats as MPs move to take more control of Brexit
UK government found in contempt for first time in its history
Tory Dominic Grieve leads 25 rebels to win key amendment
Pound stumbles as PM's authority erodes ahead of Dec 11 Vote
UK Prime Minister Theresa May suffered three parliamentary defeats on Tuesday night as MPs started a marathon session of debates on her wobbling Brexit deal.
Ministers were ordered to publish the government's full legal advice after MPs found them in contempt for trying to pass off a summary as a final document. It was the first time in British history a government has been found in contempt.
The vote was carried by 311 to 293 as six parties, including the government's confidence and supply allies, the Democratic Unionists dealt a devastating blow to the government's authority.
They also forced through a vote that would give them a final say on next steps if May's deal is defeated next Tuesday. An earlier attempt to place all issues before a committee of MPs was slapped down.
With May's already reputation and future already teetering, the pound briefly fell to April 2017 lows against the dollar after the contempt vote, before recovering slightly as MPs effectively took control of the Brexit process.
The pound briefly dropped against the dollar to $1.2660, before climbing back to $1.2709 to trade flat.
Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer described the defeat as “badge of shame”.
“By treating parliament with contempt, the government has proved it has lost its majority and the respect of the house. The prime minister can’t keep pushing parliament away or avoiding responsible scrutiny,” he said.
A parliamentary committee must now decide what sanction to impose. It has the power to suspend a minister, with Attorney-General Geoffrey Cox in the frame, although the vote's intention seemed to be to turn the screw on the government.
The second motion, tabled by pro-EU former Tory attorney general Dominic Grieve, giving parliament a greater say over what happened next if May's deal fell on December 11, was carried by 321 votes to 299. It was backed by 26 Tory rebels.
“MPs are tonight starting the process of taking back control. No longer must the will of parliament – reflecting the will of the people – be diminished," Grieve said.
“Parliament must now take back control and then give the final decision back to the public because, in the end, only the people can sort this out.”
Supporters hope the amendment will stop the government trying to force a no-deal Brexit, or imposing a plan B.
Earlier in a dramatic day, a senior European Court of Justice (ECJ) official ruled the UK could unilaterally abandon the Brexit article 50 process.
Advocate-general Campos Sánchez-Bordona said the EU law allowed the UK to revoke article 50 without requiring the formal agreement of the European Commission or other EU member states.
In his formal opinion, Sánchez-Bordona said it was essential that MPs knew they could stop the Brexit process, dismissing the UK government’s claims the issue was hypothetical.
The UK government and EC had insisted the Brexit process could only be stopped by unanimous agreement. The commission opposed the case on the basis that it would allow states to renegotiate their membership on more favourable terms.