Leaving the EU

Attorney General – in the House of Commons on 4th July 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control)

What recent assessment he has made of the effect of the UK leaving the EU without a deal on the priorities for his Office.

Photo of David Linden David Linden SNP Whip

What recent assessment he has made of the effect of the UK leaving the EU on the priorities for his Office.

Photo of Geoffrey Cox Geoffrey Cox The Attorney-General

The priorities of my office are set out in the published business plan for this year. In relation to the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, my priority continues to be to support the successful delivery of the Government’s objectives by giving legal and constitutional advice within the Government. I am of course also engaged in the support of preparations for future international co-operation between the Law Officers’ departments, and with prosecution and other criminal justice operations.

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control)

I am pleased to hear that the Attorney General is committed to continuing to provide sound legal advice in the face of fantasy politics, which he has a good track record in. Will he confirm that it is the Government’s position that after a no-deal Brexit, article 24 of the general agreement on tariffs and trade cannot be unilaterally invoked to ensure a standstill in current trading arrangements, and that the EU cannot and will not be compelled to trade on that basis?

Photo of David Linden David Linden SNP Whip

If, as appears to be the case, Boris Johnson, of whom the Attorney General is a supporter, does become the next Prime Minister, will the Attorney General support the right hon. Gentleman’s refusal to rule out a Prorogation of Parliament for a no-deal Brexit? Does he agree that that would surely be an act of constitutional vandalism?

Photo of Geoffrey Cox Geoffrey Cox The Attorney-General

That question will be reviewed at the time. The circumstances of any application for Prorogation are a matter not for me but for the Prime Minister and Her Majesty.

Photo of Mike Wood Mike Wood Conservative, Dudley South

Will the Attorney General confirm that, with or without a deal, British citizens will still be able to assert their fundamental rights through the British courts after Britain has left the European Union?

Photo of Geoffrey Cox Geoffrey Cox The Attorney-General

Of course, the United Kingdom, in all its jurisdictions, has one of the strongest records for the rule of law in the world. I have no doubt that that will continue.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Sport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales)

Further to the answer given to my hon. Friend David Linden, the Institute for Government has noted that if Parliament was prorogued to facilitate no deal, it would not be possible to pass any Bills or the remaining secondary legislation needed to prepare the UK statute book for such an outcome. Does the Attorney General therefore agree that leaving the EU without a deal and with no functioning Parliament would lead the country into a legislative black hole at a time when people throughout the country would be looking to the Government for emergency actions?

Photo of Geoffrey Cox Geoffrey Cox The Attorney-General

The House has been given the opportunity of leaving the European Union with a deal on three separate occasions. I do not recall the SNP ever voting for one of them. The answer is quite simple: we can still pass a withdrawal agreement and leave the European Union in an orderly way, but it is now quite clear that the imperative to leave the European Union is overriding. We must leave, and in my view we must do so this year—on 31 October.