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 Geoffrey Cox Geoffrey Cox The Attorney-General 4:49 pm, 3rd December 2018

I am most grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for his question. The truth of the matter is that the Northern Ireland protocol would represent a solemn commitment to the people of Northern Ireland that this Government will honour and respect the Belfast agreement. I make no bones about it: I would have preferred to have seen a unilateral right of termination in the backstop. I would have preferred to have seen a clause that allowed us to exit if negotiations had broken down irretrievably, but I am prepared to lend my support to this agreement because I do not believe—[Interruption.] I am most grateful for those cheers of applause. I do not believe that we are likely to be entrapped in the backstop permanently. I can give reasons why I say that, but my right hon. and learned Friend has foreshadowed them. So I agree with him: this represents a sensible compromise. It has unattractive and unsatisfactory elements for us, but it is for the House to weigh it up against the potential alternatives and to assess whether it amounts to a calculated risk that this Government and this House should take in these circumstances, weighed up against the realities of the alternatives.