SIX opposition parties have called on the Commons Speaker to launch contempt proceedings against the UK Government for failing to release its full legal advice on the Brexit deal.

The move by Labour, the SNP, the Democratic Unionists, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Greens came after the Government’s chief legal advisor defended the decision not to publish the full legal advice, bellowing in the chamber: “There is nothing to see here."

Instead the Government published a 43-page “full, legal position statement” but this appeared to contain very little not already in the public domain.

In the Commons, Geoffrey Cox, the Attorney General, delivered moments of parliamentary theatre as he appeared before MPs to outline the legal position on Theresa May's Brexit deal and continued to frustrate those wanting to see the full advice given to Cabinet.

Labour said the Government was seeking to avoid the publication for "fear of the political consequences" while Nigel Dodds, the DUP’s Westminster leader, denounced the Irish border backstop plan as "deeply unattractive" and urged the Government to release the full legal advice, telling Mr Cox to recommend that the deal was rejected.

Last month, a Labour motion which sought the full advice on the final Brexit deal was backed by the Commons, which has led ministers to be accused of contempt of Parliament.

Following Mr Cox’s statement, the six opposition parties sent a letter of complaint to John Bercow, who will decide whether there is a case of contempt and whether the matter should be referred to the Commons Committee of Privileges, which can decide what, if any, action should be taken.

If an MP is found to be in contempt of Parliament, he or she can be suspended or expelled; it is unclear what sanction can be imposed on a government found guilty of contempt of Parliament.

Sir Keir Starmer, Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary, said: “The Government has failed to publish the Attorney General's full and final legal advice to the Cabinet as ordered by Parliament. We have, therefore, been left with no option but to write to the Speaker of the House of Commons to ask him to launch proceedings of contempt.”

Earlier after Labour's Harriet Harman raised concerns about the Government's approach, Mr Cox said he was "caught in an acute clash of constitutional principle" and explained a minister was obliged to consider the public and national interest.

Mr Cox asked MPs to suppose the advice included details on relationships with foreign states and arguments that might be deployed in the future, noting: "Would it be right for the Attorney General, regardless of the harm to the public interest, to divulge his opinion? I say to [Ms Harman] it wouldn't."

The Attorney General said it would be difficult to ensure information would be redacted, adding: "I cannot take a step that I firmly and truly believe would be contrary to the public interest."

The Devon MP went on: "I ask the House to understand that it is only that consideration that is motivating me and this Government in declining at this stage to break the convention that applies to both sides of the House when they are in government. There is nothing to see here."

Earlier, Nick Thomas-Symonds for Labour urged the Government to do the “right thing,” noting: "For the sake of our economy, our jobs and our futures, all possible information should be made available to members of this House…With so much at stake for all our constituents, with eight days to go before the vote on the deal, this House and this country deserves better from this Government."

Joanna Cherry for the SNP asked Mr Cox whether there was anything to prevent the backstop becoming a permanent arrangement.

The Attorney General agreed there was nothing in law to stop this but such an agreement based on Article 50 would be "highly vulnerable to legal challenge" and therefore, in his legal opinion, was unlikely.

"If negotiations irretrievably broke down it would de facto become permanent and it would therefore fall to be seriously challenge-able in the Court of Justice of the European Union for being invalid; that legal certainty by itself is sufficient to promote the EU to do a deal with us," he declared.