The government was censured in December last year for its refusal to release its full and final legal opinion on the Brexit withdrawal agreement. At first blush parliament’s demand for disclosure of the opinion appears inconsistent with the doctrine of legal professional privilege (LPP) and the client’s right to keep its legal advice confidential. A closer examination suggests a constitutional and political showdown was avoided when the government published a summary of that advice, thereby effectively waiving privilege. Nevertheless, Murphy argues that the revelation of the full opinion the day after the successful contempt motion could help ignite a move to redefine LPP’s future application with respect to government legal advice.
Gavin Murphy is temporary legal editor of the Commonwealth Law Bulletin in London and former counsel to the International Joint Commission in Ottawa, Canada. He was previously full-time legal editor of the Commonwealth Law Bulletin and served as counsel with the Criminal Law Policy Section and International Development Group of the Department of Justice of Canada. He also worked at Canada's Competition Bureau and the Office of Fair Trading in the UK. A graduate of Ottawa's Carleton University and the University of Ottawa Law School, Gavin holds a Master of Laws in International and European Legal Studies from Durham University. Author of three books on the law, he has published numerous scholarly articles in law journals in Canada, England, and Ukraine. Gavin has taught courses at law schools in Ottawa and Thunder Bay, Canada, and is a frequent guest lecturer in Canada and Europe. He is also a deputy executive editor of the Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law.