[9th Allotted Day]

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Act – in the House of Commons at 1:58 pm on 15th January 2019.

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Photo of Nick Thomas-Symonds Nick Thomas-Symonds Shadow Solicitor General, Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Security) 1:58 pm, 15th January 2019

I am going to make some progress, but I will give way again in a moment.

I want to move on to the letter that has been sent by President Juncker and President Tusk, page 2 of which states:

“The European Council also said that, if the backstop were nevertheless to be triggered, it would only apply temporarily, unless and until it is superseded by a subsequent agreement”.

They again spoke about “best endeavours” and about the backstop being in place only for as long as “strictly necessary”, but we all know that that represents no difference at all to the position on which the Attorney General advised in December. Have there been any changes to the withdrawal agreement text? None. Changes to the possible interpretations of it? None. Changes to the reassurances available? None. What did the Attorney General himself say in his latest letter to the Prime Minister about the Council’s conclusions and their impact on the Northern Ireland protocol? He said that

“they do not alter the fundamental meaning of its provisions as I advised them to be on 13 November 2018.”

To coin a phrase, nothing has changed.