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

I can understand the interest in this. The last thing that I can do is comment on either the timing or the content of live legal proceedings. That is entirely a matter for the courts and it is outside the jurisdiction of Ministers.

It might be helpful to the House, as I have just received word from Strasbourg, if I say that in addition to the two documents I outlined in my statement, I can confirm that the Government will also be laying a unilateral declaration that will form part of the package the House will vote on tomorrow. This declaration is focused on the temporary nature of the backstop and we would make it formally, alongside signature of the withdrawal agreement. Once made, the declaration would have legal status in international law, and such declarations are commonly used by states alongside the ratification of treaties. The declaration clarifies what the UK could do if it were not possible to conclude an agreement that superseded the protocol because the EU had acted contrary to its obligations. In these circumstances, the UK’s understanding is that nothing in the withdrawal agreement would prevent it from instigating measures that could ultimately lead to the disapplication of its obligations under the protocol. Were the UK to take such measures, it would remain in full compliance with its obligations to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.