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Three reasons why MPs are fearful of Brexit

Brexit minister David Davis is facing anger after withholding detailed Brexit forecasts. Credit: PA

MPs are becoming increasingly angry or anxious about three important pillars of Theresa May's approach to Brexit.

First - and what will be most conspicuous today - is that MPs will complain to the Speaker that her Brexit minister David Davis has failed to fulfil the terms of a parliamentary motion ordering him to give to the Brexit select committee all official studies about the economic impact of leaving the EU.

As I reported yesterday morning, Davis has delivered 850 pages of edited official copy, but he has excised anything that in his view would impair his position in talks with the rest of the EU.

This has infuriated more or less all opposition MPs, and constitutional sticklers in his own party (among whom Davis himself used to be numbered, as it happens - Davis is engaging in a spot of gamekeeper-turned-poacher).

It is close to inconceivable that the Speaker will not uphold the inevitable complaints against Davis and the Government. At which point the degree of their putative contempt of Parliament will be assessed by the Committee of Privileges - which again is almost certain to find against them.

Mrs May must weigh up whether it is worth holding a vote asking to redact information. Credit: PA

So is all lost for Davis and May? Will they be obliged to hand over even the sensitive official stuff - the bits that say Brexit will muller this or that British industry - to the Brexit committee?

Not necessarily.

The Government could put another so-called "humble address" before MPs which would propose amending the original requirement to produce the EU documents to the effect that sensitive information could be redacted or excised.

The risk for May of course is that she might lose such a vote. So she'll have to weigh up whether the humiliation of such a loss is worth risking to avoid the acute embarrassment of revealing what many of her officials and British business people really think of Brexit.

So that is May's first big Parliamentary headache.

The UK has conceded that the ECJ will still have sway after Brexit. Credit: PA

The second is that constitutional sticklers among Tory Brexiteers hate what I revealed just over a week ago, which is that the PM and her top ministers have agreed to concede to the EU27 that EU migrants living in the UK after Brexit would be able to appeal to the European Court of Justice if they feared their rights were being breached.

As one Tory MP put it, if that happens "we would remain a colony of the EU; that would be wholly intolerable. We simply can't have a foreign court having jurisdiction over residents of the UK".

Or to put it another way, May would dangerously alienate perhaps 30 or 40 of her own MPs when she turns ministerial intention into a public offer to the EU of a continuing role for the ECJ as migrants' ultimate court of appeal.

Campaigners wave EU flags outside the Houses of Parliament. Credit: PA

Finally, and I will explore this properly soon, I cannot find a single MP or minister who sees how Brexit can transpire without political, social and constitutional crisis in relations between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The Government's position on how to avoid an unacceptable hard border between the Republic and the UK - either in the sea or with Northern Ireland - can be boiled down into little more than an optimistic statement that a way will be found, subject to trade talks.

What literally no one knows is whether it will be enough for the rest of the EU at the December summit to hear May promise to find a solution, or whether they will enforce the Catch 22 they created - which is that the border issue can't be solved without a trade deal, but trade talks can't start unless the border issue is solved.

To put it another way, it is clear that May herself wants to avoid a hard Brexit if she can, though there are political limits to what she feels she can offer the rest of the EU.

But - and here is the unfashionable view - I am far less certain that the rest of the EU genuinely wants to ward off that abrupt or hard secession of the UK.