[9th Allotted Day]

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Act – in the House of Commons at 12:59 pm on 15th January 2019.

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Photo of Geoffrey Cox Geoffrey Cox The Attorney-General 12:59 pm, 15th January 2019

I want to make a bit of progress, because it is important to look at what the withdrawal agreement does.

We should not underestimate the legal complexity of our disentanglement from 45 years of legal integration. It has taken two years and thousands of hours of detailed and arduous negotiation, some of it highly technical, to produce 585 pages of the most minute consideration of the possibilities that no deal would create in legal terms for the millions of people who depend upon the certainty of the legal system and rules to which we have hitherto been subject. It provides for the orderly, predictable and legally certain winding down of our obligations and involvement in the legal systems of the EU. If we do not legislate for that legal certainty, as a matter of law alone, thousands of contracts, transactions, administrative proceedings and judicial proceedings in the European Union and this country will be plunged into legal uncertainty.

It would be the height of irresponsibility for any legislator to contemplate with equanimity such a situation. A litigant in court who was dependent upon having concluded a contract on the basis of EU law and then found themselves suddenly having the rug pulled from under them, not knowing what their legal obligations were, would say to this House, “What are you playing at? What are you doing? You are not children in the playground. You are legislators, and this is your job.”