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

In all earnestness, when I gave my statement the hon. Lady will have noticed that I said that the House must understand the process by which the Law Officers give their advice. There may be no such “full legal advice”. Law Officers are consulted ad hoc, on the hoof, in fast-developing circumstances. That is what I said at the beginning of the statement. The fact of the matter is that I am here to answer the hon. Lady’s questions. [Interruption.] Well, then I will see the hon. Lady at any time and at her convenience, when she can ask me any question.

I cannot breach the constitutional convention to a client—in this case, the Government—particularly if I believe, as I do with all candour and sincerity, that it would be contrary to the national interest in the course of a negotiation that might involve discussions about strengths, weaknesses and future strategies. [Interruption.] There was a sedentary comment from the Opposition; this is not arrogance. I wish that I could comply with the request of this House but if I did, I sincerely believe that it would not be in all of our interests. In a court, that matter can be resolved by a judge, but in the procedures of this House—it may very well be that we need to look at those procedures—there is no such arbiter. Therefore, although the House says that I should disclose, I believe that the public interest compels me not to. I am sorry.