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 grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend. He will understand that if I were to make that express confirmation, I would by that means be disclosing what advice, if any, I had given. I hope that the House will understand—unless it is to be supposed that I would tailor my advice according to my audience, which I assure the House I would not do—that there is no matter on which hon. Members could ask me a question on which I am likely to have given a different answer to any other party who might have asked me about it in the course of these negotiations. In all candour, therefore, I can say that all the House has to do is ask.

In relation to my right hon. and learned Friend’s second question, it is true that there would be regulatory divergences—as there are within sovereign states throughout the world—between one part of the sovereign territory of the United Kingdom and another, but those divergences could be kept to a minimum. They involve, on my investigation, some 15 forms of product in respect of which checks might have to be carried out at the border. Those 15 forms of product are largely phytosanitary goods in respect of which checks are already carried out in many cases at the ports of Northern Ireland. Therefore, while that border would exist—I find that distasteful myself—the issues are nevertheless mitigable, and the question again is whether that feature should lead us to decline this deal, which I firmly believe is the best way of ensuring that we leave the European Union on 29 March. That is the solemn responsibility that this side of the House—and some on the Opposition side—believed that we had. This is the deal that will ensure that that happens in an orderly way and with legal certainty.