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 Attorney General, by definition, is only called upon to advise on matters that are exceptional or in exceptional circumstances. The question here is what requires the advice of the Attorney General to be disclosed. In Lord Goldsmith’s case, the issue was whether the action of the Government was lawful. The action of the Government could not be taken if the Attorney General had not signed off on it, because it would be contrary to the ministerial code.

The circumstance here is that the House has available to it a wide range of highly competent legal advice that is just as good as mine and as those who advise me. There is nothing essential, I suggest to the House, about the advice of the Attorney General being disclosed in this case, but there is something that could lead to severe damage to the public interest. One hon. Lady on the Labour Benches said that I was being arrogant. I am not. I am trying genuinely to protect the public interest. The last thing I want to do is to be at odds with this House. I have been a Member for 13 years. I would very much like to ensure that the House is satisfied, which is why I am here today, answering these questions.