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Theresa May's government found in contempt of Parliament over its handling of Brexit

British prime minister ordered to hand over legal advice behind her Brexit plan

British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves Number 10 Downing Street on Tuesday in London. Members of Parliament determined that the government committed contempt when it failed to publish full legal advice on Brexit. (Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

The British Parliament has found Prime Minister Theresa May's government to be in contempt.

Why was her government found in contempt?

Parliament had asked Theresa May's government to publish legal advice from the Attorney General to the Cabinet on which it had based its version of a Brexit deal. The advice looked at all the potential legal implications of the current Brexit deal. May refused to publish on the basis that such “candid" legal advice given to ministers should be understood to be confidential.

On Tuesday, British House of Commons voted 311 to 293 to hold May's government in contempt.

What does this mean for May's government?

May's government will now have to turn over the legal advice to Parliament. It will then be looked over to make sure that it doesn't contain any confidential information before being released to the public.

“We have tested the opinion of the House twice on this very serious subject," Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the House of Commons said after the vote took place. “We have listened carefully and in light of the expressed will of the House, we will publish the final and full advice provided by the Attorney General to Cabinet. But recognizing the very serious constitutional issues this raises, I've referred the matter to the privileges committee to consider the implications of the humble address."

"I know there are some in this House and in the country who would prefer a closer relationship with the European Union than the one I'm proposing, indeed who would prefer the relationship that we currently have and want another referendum," May told Parliament.

    "The hard truth is that we will not settle this issue and bring our country together that way, and I ask them to think what it would say to the 52% who came out to vote Leave in many cases for the first time in decades if their decision were ignored."

    What does this mean for Brexit?

    That depends on what's in the documents that will now be released. Critics of Brexit suspect that these documents must contain predictions that Brexit will not go as well as May's government has been predicting, since they were not released immediately.

    A judge in the European Union ruled on Tuesday before this vote took place that the U.K. could cancel its Brexit plans without getting the approval of all the remaining EU member states. May and her government objected to this ruling, saying that it was pointless because they planned to go through with Brexit.

    A parliamentary vote on May's version of a Brexit deal is scheduled to be held on Dec. 11. In March, the U.K. invoked Article 50 of the EU treaty, which set the wheels in motion for the nation to leave the European Union on March 29, 2019, with or without a deal in place.

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