Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Position

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:49 pm on 3rd December 2018.

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Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Father of the House of Commons 4:49 pm, 3rd December 2018

Whether that will cheer people up or not, I have no idea.

First, I sincerely congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General on his masterly exposition of the facts and the law, which put paid to quite a lot of the paranoia and conspiracy theories that have been running around all too often in our European debate.

Secondly, does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that it was central to the Good Friday agreement—the Belfast agreement—that both sides committed themselves timelessly to an open border, and that will be all wrapped up if we ever move to the Northern Ireland protocol? It would be quite shameful if the European Union, the Republic of Ireland or the United Kingdom were given the right unilaterally to terminate that arrangement at a time of their political choosing, so this is perfectly sensible. Does he also agree that both the United Kingdom and the European Union will have reasons to hesitate before going into the protocol—they may prefer to extend the transition agreement—and that neither of the parties will have any political motive for staying indefinitely in that protocol?

In his exposition, I think my right hon. and learned Friend has done what he was trying to do: got rid of all these theories about the ECJ still being involved, as it obviously will have to be, in the rights of British citizens after we leave, and enabled the House to get back to the real political debate that we have to have in the next few days.