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MPs say UK gov broke parliament’s rules with its Brexit deal

The UK government didn’t make all the legal advice they got regarding their Brexit deal public. Some MPs think that’s not allowed.

What it means: Last month, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced that she’d made a Brexit deal with the EU. It laid out exactly what the relationship between the UK and the EU would be after the UK leaves the EU next March. British MPs are about to vote on whether to accept that deal or not.

But now a row is kicking off about whether something dodgy is going on because the UK government went to ask their lawyer (aka the Attorney General of the UK) about all the legal implications of the deal and won’t tell anyone everything he said. (They did release a 52-page summary).

So some opposition MPs have formally accused the government of being “in contempt of parliament” (i.e. breaking the rules). But the Attorney General says he’s still not going to release the info because “there is nothing to see here”. (Yup, doesn’t sound fishy at all mate).

A vote is going to be held and if a majority of MPs think members of the government are guilty then they can be suspended or even expelled from parliament. That’s probably not as serious as it sounds, as they could keep doing their government jobs. The BBC said being found guilty of contempt of parliament would be “distraction rather than a disaster” for the government.

The big thing some MPs think the Attorney General is hiding is about the Irish border backstop. That’s a bit of the deal that says there can never be a border between Ireland (an EU country) and Northern Ireland (part of UK, so non-EU after Brexit).

At the moment, the EU and UK economies are really closely intertwined. But after Brexit, Britain wants to be able to stop EU people freely coming into their country. And the EU wants to make sure Britain can’t send stuff that doesn’t meet EU health and safety rules into the EU. But stopping that from happening requires either border controls or some sort of whizzy technology that hasn’t been invented yet.

So some people think the Irish border backstop bit of the Brexit would force the UK to stay in the EU single market after Brexit, which would means allowing free movement of everything and following all the EU rules. Most Brexiteers would hate that.

Read our explainers on Brexit and the EU.

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