May Caves as Parliament Demands Release of Brexit Legal Advice

(Bloomberg) -- As Theresa May struggles to finalize a Brexit deal with the European Union, her opponents in the British Parliament are warming up for a fight.

The prime minister lost a key battle in Parliament on Tuesday, and it could make her struggle to get the final divorce deal through Parliament even trickier. Opposition lawmakers forced her to commit to publishing the legal thinking that guided her negotiating decisions.

The risk now is that her increasingly assertive Conservative Party colleagues will take a look at the advice and conclude that her arguments for the kind of Brexit she wants are flawed.

Why does all this matter? Because members of Parliament will be asked to vote on whether to accept or reject the Brexit accord May brings back from Brussels. If they refuse to endorse it, the U.K. will be staring over the edge of the cliff at a chaotic “no deal” exit.

May’s team backed down after they realized their attempt to stop Parliament forcing them to publish the legal advice was going to fail. There were too many pro-Brexit Tory rebels joining forces with May’s archrival, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The big worry for May is that a similar cross-party alliance of Tory rebels, the Democratic Unionist Party -- who normally support her -- and the official Labour opposition emerges to defeat her again when she puts the final Brexit deal to Parliament, potentially within weeks.

According to one of the Tories behind the revolt, there will be an almighty row if May doesn’t publish the legal advice before that vote happens.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.