[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 will give way to my right hon. Friend Anna Soubry, but first I need to make some progress.

Orderly exit from the European Union would always require a withdrawal agreement along these lines. No alternative option now being canvassed in the House would not require the withdrawal agreement and now the backstop. Let us be clear: whatever solution may be fashioned if this motion and deal are defeated, this withdrawal agreement will have to return in much the same form and with much the same content. Therefore, there is no serious or credible objection that has been advanced by any party to the withdrawal agreement.

It was said last week by Keir Starmer that we should have negotiated a full customs union with a say within the political declaration and then there would have been no need for a backstop, because the agreement could then have been concluded within the transition period. However, he knows, and it is clear, that the European Union is unwilling to and regards itself as bound by its own law not to enter into detailed negotiations on the permanent relationship treaties. The EU was never going to do it, and its own negotiating guidelines said it would not, so there was always going to be this withdrawal agreement, a political declaration setting out a framework and months, if not years, thereafter of detailed negotiation on any final resting place that any political declaration might have.