Brexit legal advice to be published after Theresa May endures three defeats in one day

Theresa May has bowed to demands to publish the "final and full" legal advice on her Brexit deal after suffering a humiliating Commons defeat.

The prime minister caved in moments after MPs decided her ministers were in "contempt" of Parliament for withholding the information.

It was one of three Commons defeats for Mrs May's government on Tuesday.

The defeats came as the prime minister kicked off a five-day debate in the Commons on her Brexit deal.

  • What were the three votes the Government lost?

MPs first rejected a government amendment to the cross-party contempt motion by 311 votes to 307, a majority of four.

This amendment asked for the Committee of Privileges to consider whether ministers were in contempt of Parliament over its handling of Brexit legal advice.

This ultimately would have helped stop the immediate publication of the full legal advice on the Brexit deal - something which opposition MPs have demanded.

Next MPs from across the political spectrum found ministers were in contempt of Parliament by by 311 votes to 293.

Following those two losses, the government finally lost a vote on Dominic Grieve's amendment.

This amendment sought to allow Parliament to have more of a say on Brexit plans if the Government's EU Withdrawal Agreement is rejected by MPs.

It was approved by 321 votes to 299, majority 22.

Andrea Leadsom confirmed legal advice will be published - a day after the Attorney General (right) said it was not in the country's interest. Credit: PA
  • What does the contempt defeat mean?

The contempt defeat led to Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom confirming the full legal advice would be published by Wednesday.

This iwas something that the government initially wanted to avoid.

It is the first time in modern history that a government has been found in contempt of Parliament.

After the vote, Ms Leadsom said: "We've tested the opinion of the House twice on this very serious subject.

"We've listened carefully and in light of the expressed will of the House we will publish the final and full advice provided by the Attorney General to Cabinet but recognising the very serious constitutional issues this raises I have referred the matter to the privileges committee to consider the implications of the humble address."

Labour's shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said that the finding of contempt was "a badge of shame" for the Government, with "huge constitutional and political significance".

Dominic Grieve's amendment has allowed the Government to influence the Brexit deal - if Theresa May's plan is voted down. Credit: PA
  • What does Dominic Grieve's amendment mean?

If Mrs May's Brexit deal falls in the "meaningful vote" next week, the prime minister has 21 calendar days to set out a statement on her next steps.

Former attorney general Mr Grieve's amendment will make any such statement itself amendable, meaning that MPs can effectively direct the government on how to respond to the defeat of Mrs May's plans.

This could open the door for the Commons to throw its weight behind a Norway-style soft Brexit, or even a second EU referendum, though prominent Leave-backing MPs questioned whether any such vote would be binding on ministers.