As flagged by Labour spokespeople during television interviews yesterday and today, a letter has gone to Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow, asking him to begin contempt of Parliament proceedings against the government.
The call has been signed by six opposition parties – including the DUP, the government’s former ‘confidence and supply’ support.
Theresa May has withheld the government’s full legal advice on her Brexit deal from MPs, even though she failed to contest a Commons decision to order its release, with not one Tory MP voting against it.
Contempt of Parliament is a serious offence that can result in custodial sentences for non-MPs – and the expulsion of members of Parliament, vacating their seat and causing by-elections. For a government to face such a charge for ignoring the will of Parliament is unprecedented. According to the BBC’s Iain Watson, John Bercow intends to decide the issue very rapidly and possibly even this evening.
The call makes May’s prospects of getting her Brexit withdrawal agreement passed by MPs even more vanishing than they already were – and triggers a constitutional crisis that could and should bring down the government.
Labour’s leadership team has also agreed to table a motion of no confidence in May’s government as soon as the vote on the deal is over, assuming the universally-expected defeat is inflicted on her.
If the motion of no confidence succeeds, a new general election will be called if the government is unable to win a new confidence vote within fourteen days – in other words, by Christmas Day.
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