Britain's ministers have been forced to back down on Tuesday after parliament found the government was contempt over an order to publish full legal advice on prime minister Theresa May's Brexit deal with the EU.
In a landmark vote on Tuesday, parliamentarians in the lower chamber House of Commons backed a motion, tabled a day before by six parties, demanding full disclosure of the counsel by 311 votes to 293.
Opponents believe the advice will reveal Attorney General Geoffrey Cox's misgivings about the Brexit agreement.
An attempt by ministers to refer the whole issue to a committee of MPs was earlier defeated earlier by four votes.
A judge in the European Union ruled on Tuesday before this vote took place that the United Kingdom could cancel its Brexit plans without getting the approval of all the remaining EU member states.
Labour Party Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said the contempt finding was "unprecedented".
The UK government has been found in contempt of parliament for the first time in its history over its failure to publish legal advice on Brexit in full.
The government in fact lost three votes, each by narrow but significant margins, demonstrating the huge difficulties it will face in the coming week in a debate and subsequent vote on that deal, which must pass if Brexit is to go ahead as the government plans.
Before the Prime Minister appeared at the despatch box, her Government had gone down to defeat for the third time in an hour.
The advice from the ECJ advocate general - not binding but usually heeded by the court - suggested to some lawmakers that revoking Britain's "Article 50" divorce notice was an option.
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Chinese regulators declined to clear the deal, though the country later expressed regret over the transaction's collapse. The $3.4 billion (about Rs. 24,000 crores) deal, announced in March, is still awaiting Chinese regulatory approval.
May's plans are vulnerable to more change at the end of the debate, and advice from a senior European Union legal aide that Britain had the right to withdraw its Brexit notice opened yet another front in her battle to win the approval of parliament.
Left-wing Labour said May's defeat next Tuesday would likely trigger a confidence vote to bring down her government.
Another critical vote on the Brexit deal is fast approaching.
It's an embarrassing defeat for Theresa May's government, who now face five days of Brexit debate, before the crunch vote on the deal agreed with the European Union on December 11.
It means that instead of the government having to come back to tell MPs what their next steps are - and MPs voting on that - they would theoretically be able to vote on what they wanted the government to do as well.
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said Tuesday that British consumers could see their weekly supermarket bills up by 10 percent in a worst-case Brexit scenario that involves a 25 percent fall in the value of the pound.
If that happens, the government is required to come back within 21 days and say what it plans to do.
Hardline Conservative Brexiteers say May's compromise deal does not represent enough of a break with Brussels.
But May has no intention of revoking the notice, her spokesman said, despite facing a daunting struggle to secure parliament's approval in the key vote on December 11 after her plan was criticised by Brexit supporters and opponents alike.