May talks up post-Brexit trade deals but hits legal advice row
Updated 14:06, 06-Dec-2018
By John Goodrich
British Prime Minister Theresa May will on Monday resume her lobbying campaign ahead of next week's critical Brexit vote with a claim that world leaders want trade deals with the UK.
However, May will also run into a brewing row over reports that unpublished legal advice shows that Britain could be locked into a customs union with the EU indefinitely – and so be unable to implement trade deals.
May returns from the G20 summit in Argentina to deliver a speech to parliament and begin a series of face-to-face meetings with her own Conservative MPs, around 100 of whom have stated in public they will vote against the deal she has struck with the EU.
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Many MPs who backed Brexit were attracted by the prospect of Britain striking independent trade deals, and pre-released excerpts of a speech, May will give on Monday, show she will stress that several world leaders at the G20 summit were eager to negotiate agreements "as soon as possible."
"Once we leave the EU, we can and we will strike ambitious trade deals," May will tell parliament, according to Reuters. "For the first time in more than 40 years we will have an independent trade policy, and we will continue to be a passionate advocate for the benefits open economies and free markets can bring."
She is expected to say countries including Argentina, Australia, Chile, and Japan expressed interest during meetings at the summit. 
Beijing and London will look at the possibility of reaching a post-Brexit free trade agreement, China's Ministry of Commerce said after high-level talks in November.
British Prime Minister Theresa May is greeted by Argentine President Mauricio Macri at the G20 Leaders' Summit 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, November 30, 2018. /VCG photo

British Prime Minister Theresa May is greeted by Argentine President Mauricio Macri at the G20 Leaders' Summit 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, November 30, 2018. /VCG photo

May's campaign to persuade parliamentarians to back her plan was boosted by the support of influential Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove on Sunday, but she has also suffered a setback over legal advice.
The Labour party – backed by other opposition parties including the Democratic Unionists, the party which props up May's government – has warned it will push for the government to be held in contempt of parliament if the legal advice over the Brexit deal is not published in full.
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox is due to brief parliament and answer questions on Monday afternoon, but does not intend to publish the complete advice citing confidentiality. The government has said it will release a "full reasoned political statement" only, citing precedent.
However, Labour last month won a motion to publish "any legal advice in full" and opposition parties are set to join it in pressuring the government. If a minister is found in contempt he or she can be suspended or expelled from parliament.
The Sunday Times reported that leaked details of Cox's legal advice show Britain would be locked into a customs union until a trade deal is struck, a process that could take years. A cabinet source told the newspaper: "The legal advice is very bad, which is why they don't want anyone to see it."
The House of Commons will vote on May's Brexit deal on December 11, after five days of debate.
On Sunday Labour's Keir Starmer warned that his party would attempt to bring down the government if May loses the vote. Starmer said Labour would put forward a vote of no confidence in the government if parliament votes down the deal. If a vote of no confidence were carried, fresh elections would likely follow.
May's tour of Britain last week, in which she attempted to sell her Brexit deal, is now widely being seen as a dry-run for an election campaign.