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DIANE ABBOTT lambasted the Tories for their “botched Brexit” deal today as a humiliated PM Theresa May was forced to publish legal advice after being held in contempt of Parliament.
She slammed the government for bungling negotiations on leaving the EU, while saying that Labour respected the decision made in 2016’s referendum and did not believe it to be motivated by racism in a speech in which she cited Labour left legend Tony Benn, a lifelong opponent of EU membership on grounds of democratic principle.
Advice prepared by Attorney General Geoffrey Cox concluded that Britain would not be able to withdraw from restrictive “transitional” arrangements without the EU’s permission even after leaving.
The shadow home secretary said the legal advice was “embarrassing for the government” and that front-bench ministers should be “ashamed” they had to release the legal advice because of pressure from their parliamentary opposition.
Ministers were obliged to release the advice, which claimed Britain risks a “stalemate” and “protracted rounds of negotiations” with Brussels, by Tuesday’s unprecedented contempt vote.
The documents say that an “indefinite” arrangement can be made so that there would not be the drawing of new borders between the north of Ireland and the south of Ireland, and that Britain will not be able to leave without the EU’s approval.
Ms Abbott took the government to task on its negotiations record, telling roaring Tory MPs there is “little doubt” that Ms May has handled negotiations with European counterparts poorly.
“My party has said from the beginning that we respect the referendum result,” she added.
“And it is true that there were substantive reasons to vote for Brexit – above all, there were the longstanding concerns about sovereignty that were so well articulated by my late colleague, Tony Benn.
“Nobody would deny that concerns about migration were not far from the minds of some, if not all, leave voters.”
She went on to criticise the government for not having plans to create a new security treaty with the EU.
Without a treaty there would be no legal basis for international arrest or extradition warrants and the sharing of criminal databases between European countries would be hobbled, she pointed out.
"The level of co-operation between the UK and the EU, post-Brexit, could be severely and unavoidably downgraded," she warned.
MPs also backed calls for the Commons to have a say in what happens if the Brexit deal is rejected next Tuesday.
Ms May said that parliamentarians had a “duty” to vote on her deal, which has been endorsed by EU leaders and British business tycoons.
She said that Brexit divisions were becoming “corrosive” to British politics and that the issue must be finally resolved for the country to move on.
Labour shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said: “Having reviewed the attorney general’s legal advice, it’s obvious why it needed to be placed in the public domain.
“All week we have been told by government ministers that releasing this information could harm the national interest but the advice contains nothing of the sort.
“All this advice reveals is the central weaknesses in the government’s deal.
“It is unthinkable that the government tried to keep this information from Parliament and indeed the public before next week’s vote.”
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