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 Nigel Dodds Nigel Dodds Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Reform and Constitutional Issues), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Brexit), DUP Westminster Leader 4:49 pm, 3rd December 2018

As the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows, I have the utmost and deepest respect for him in relation to his approach to these issues and the discussions that we have had, but he has said himself that the whole business is deeply unsatisfactory and unattractive, which makes me wonder why he is recommending the agreement. It seems to me that we are now reliant on our learned friends to take cases in international courts, rather than this sovereign Parliament being able to decide when we can get out of these backstop arrangements.

Can the Attorney General confirm what he said—that this is an indefinite arrangement that can be permanent in law, despite what some of his Cabinet colleagues are saying? I do not have time to go into all of this, because, as other Members have said, we need to see the actual legal advice as requested by the House—that must happen—but can he also confirm that under article 15 of the Northern Ireland protocol, the Northern Ireland customs arrangements mean that Northern Ireland will form part of the EU customs territory and not the United Kingdom’s, although “a single customs territory” is established between the UK and the EU? Will he confirm that under article 4 of the protocol, there is a new right under international law—one that is not in the Belfast agreement of 1998—for the EU to oversee certain aspects of the implementation of that 1998 agreement?

I have added those detailed points, which I will follow up with the Attorney General in later discussions, but the overall context is, as he has said, a deeply unattractive, unsatisfactory agreement. Rather than recommending it, he needs to recommend that it be rejected.