Withdrawal Agreement: Attorney General’s legal opinion on the Joint Instrument and Unilateral Declaration - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:10 pm on 12th March 2019.

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Photo of Lord Keen of Elie Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice) 6:10 pm, 12th March 2019

I do not accept the noble and learned Lord’s suggestion that that is the most likely or probable outcome. We have already seen circumstances in which parties have laid out the suitability of alternative arrangements for the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Work will go on with regard to that. There is going to be a track of work carried out as soon as the withdrawal agreement is concluded in order to bring that to fruition by December 2020. There is therefore no reason to suppose that such a thing is impossible. If we have a situation in which the EU simply refuses and turns its face away from a workable proposal, then there will be an issue of good faith and best endeavours to be addressed and disposed of. But the political reality is different. This is very much a situation in which we are dealing with an extreme. Equally extreme is the idea that somehow, over a period of almost two years, the parties would not be able to conceive of a means of dealing with the border except by means of the backstop.