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

First, I point out to the hon. Lady that the advice of Lord Goldsmith was published two years after the event. What the House is now asking is that the advice, if any, given by the Attorney General be published in the middle of the negotiations, where we may still need to deploy many of the arguments connected with the withdrawal agreement in the future. Secondly, the advice of Lord Goldsmith was on a question of the lawfulness of the Government’s action. This is not a question of whether the Government acted lawfully; this is simply a question of whether the Government are acting wisely, on which Members of the House can disagree. There is a fundamental distinction between the position when the advice of Lord Goldsmith was given in 2003 and the advice today.

The advice that the Attorney General and the Law Officers give on a matter such as this could be replicated by any lawyer of reasonable competence. Why, Keir Starmer could pop down to his chambers and find half a dozen lawyers capable of giving the same advice that I might have given on these points—probably better. The truth of the matter—what is so important about my advice?