Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Opinion

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:39 pm on 12th March 2019.

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Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough 12:39 pm, 12th March 2019

I thank the Attorney General for being so patient when I have been working on this unilateral declaration for the past two months and I thank him for including it in the final agreement, but may I ask him a detailed question because the devil is in the detail? There is no doubt, having worked with academic opinion, that a unilateral declaration is absolutely binding as long as it is deposited at the time the treaty is ratified. The unilateral declaration makes it clear that there is nothing to stop the UK leaving the backstop if talks break down, but it has to be a unilateral, conditional, interpretative declaration; that is what international law states. We are signing and agreeing to this withdrawal agreement only on condition—that is why the word “conditional” is important—that, if the talks break down, we can exit. So can the Attorney General now use the word “conditional” to reassure the House?