Exiting the European Union

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:00 pm on 11th March 2019.

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Photo of David Lidington David Lidington Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Minister of State (Cabinet Office) 10:00 pm, 11th March 2019

When the right hon. and learned Gentleman got to his phrase about how the Opposition Front Bench was going to reject it, I thought that was the one that had been prepared a very long time in advance. I completely understand that he—like other Members of the House on all sides—is going to want to study the detail of the texts, but I want to make a number of things clear in response to his questions.

First, the joint instrument has equal status in law to the withdrawal agreement itself. Therefore, the withdrawal agreement and the joint instrument that has been negotiated today have to be read alongside each other; they have equal legal force. Secondly, the Government were chided over the question of alternative arrangements. Actually, it is a significant advance to have written into a legal text now a date of the end of 2020, because working actively to achieve that now becomes a legal obligation on both the United Kingdom and the European Union.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman also questioned the point of putting the promises made by Presidents Juncker and Tusk in January into law, and yet the thrust of his critique had been that we needed to put things into law rather than rely upon promises, so I think, again, there is a definite advance in line with what this House had wanted.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked me specific questions on the Attorney General. I did say in my opening statement that he is obviously reflecting urgently, but also with due consideration by proper analysis, on the documents that have been negotiated today, and he will provide his assessment to the House, as he has promised to do, as early as he can tomorrow and ahead of the debate.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked me about the Cabinet. The entire Cabinet endorsed and voted for the deal when it last came before the House. What we have today are improvements upon the deal which the Cabinet has supported, so the whole Cabinet is supporting these improvements.