The UK government has failed to rule out a "cut and paste"-style white paper on Theresa May's Brexit plans, it emerged on Thursday morning (26 January 2017). The development comes after Labour's shadow Brexit minister Jenny Chapman challenged Brexit Secretary David Davis on the issue in the House of Commons.
Chapman asked Davis if the white paper would be a "cut and paste" of the prime minister's address to Lancaster House, London, on 12 January, which saw May unveil a 12-point Brexit plan.
"The prime minister's speech, one of the clearest expositions of international policy I've heard in many, many years, answered all of the questions that the opposition and the Brexit committee raised, other than those that would actively undermine our negotiating position," Davis said.
"The opposition put up a motion which actually said 'we would not undermine our negotiating position'. It's quite right that they should expect us to obey the rules of the House, but they should do so too."
The comments come a day after May announced at prime minister's questions (PMQs) that the government would publish a white paper. This U-turn followed increased pressure from Labour and some Conservative MPs, including former ministers Nicky Morgan and Anna Soubry. But the Conservative premier refused to reveal when the document would be published.
Davis also failed to produce a timetable when he was grilled on the issue by MPs. "I've said we will produce it as quickly as possible, what can you do faster than that?" he said. Labour want the white paper to be published before the Article 50 bill, tabled in parliament today (26 January), reaches committee stage in the House of Commons.
The dispute is a result of the Supreme Court's landmark judgement on Tuesday, which saw the top judges rule eight to three that MPs and peers should have a vote on triggering Article 50. The historic decision could derail May's end-of-March timetable to invoke the mechanism to split from the EU.
The draft legislation is expected to pass through the Commons, while the House of Lords, where Labour and the Liberal Democrats have more than 300 peers, could delay the bill passing into law.