In Depth

The Brexit conspiracy: Downing Street accused of cover-up

Theresa May feeds Leavers’ suspicions by blocking publication of legal advice on UK’s withdrawal

Theresa May’s refusal to publish the full legal advice on her Brexit deal is fuelling Leavers’ claims that Downing Street has something to hide.

MPs passed a motion earlier this month demanding that “any legal advice in full” be made available to Parliament ahead of a vote on the withdrawal agreement on 11 December.

The Government did not oppose the motion but has since said that it will only hand over a “full, reasoned position statement” on the legality of the deal.

This has prompted “accusations of a cover-up”, with Brexiteers speculating that the advice shows the “deal could leave the UK stuck in a customs union”, says The Daily Telegraph.

Tory MP Peter Bone told the newspaper: “People will naturally think the legal advice doesn’t support their case and that’s why they don’t want to publish it.”

The latest accusations come a week after Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson suggested Downing Street was secretly trying to avoid a hard Brexit.

“It has been hard to suppress a gnawing feeling that we are approaching the climax of a powerful and well coordinated plot to thwart the democratic will of the British people as expressed in the referendum on June 23 2016,” she wrote.

Pearson argues that a no-deal Brexit is actually what the electorate wants but that this option has been portrayed as “scary and disastrous” by Remainers.

“Increasingly we fear the whole referendum has been like some mad conjuring trick to get us back to where we started. Either that, or they have managed to bore us to death so we simply don’t care what happens any more,” said Pearson.

“Signs of the conspiracy against Brexit are everywhere,” she claims, citing the “relentless briefings” against anyone who challenges the deal and the “barrage of pro-Remain propaganda”.

That opinion is shared by MP Kate Hoey, co-chair of Labour Leave, who told talkRADIO that the Brexit deal was simply a “facade”, and was “Brexit in name only”.

Hoey continued: “You just wonder what has been going on for two years. How they could possibly, after two years of so-called hard negotiations with the prime minister, have ended up with something like this?” 

Meanwhile, a cabinet source told The Guardian that Downing Street was avoiding publishing its full legal advice for fear that it “would inflame the Tory Right” - a claim denied by No. 10.

Yesterday a spokesperson for the PM said: “The position is as set out by [Minister for the Cabinet Office] David Lidington in his statement to the House a couple of weeks ago. This is for a full reasoned position statement laying out the Government’s political and also legal position on the proposed withdrawal agreement and attached protocols. So the commitment remains as it was set out a couple of weeks ago.”

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