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

The European Union’s original proposal, as the hon. Gentleman will know, was that Northern Ireland should reside in an entirely separate customs territory. The Government took the view that that was wholly and completely unacceptable. Why? Because there is virtually no sovereign state in the world that has separate customs and fiscal tariffs within its own sovereign territory. But there are many nations throughout the world in which different provinces and parts have regulatory divergence. The regulatory divergence in this case can be minimised to an almost, if not wholly, invisible extent. Furthermore, we do not wish, nor expect, to be in this arrangement. Under article 132 we can extend the implementation period, and if we are close to doing a deal, or even reasonably close, no doubt that is a choice that we will have to consider.

I say to hon. Members that I understand entirely their feelings of concern, even distaste, but this is a question affecting the whole of the United Kingdom and its interests. So vital is the fact that we should have an orderly exit from the European Union that, as people who hold the United Kingdom’s Union at their heart, I would urge them to consider supporting this agreement, for it is our means out of the European Union.