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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 6:30 pm on 12th March 2019.

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Photo of Lord Mackay of Clashfern Lord Mackay of Clashfern Conservative 6:30 pm, 12th March 2019

My Lords, I have had the opportunity to study the earlier and most recent legal opinions of the Attorney-General. I agree with him that as a matter of law there is a risk. But I was a mathematician before I became a lawyer. One has to find out the size of the risk. Every one of us who crossed the street today to come here had to take a risk, did we not? I came yesterday by aeroplane, which also has a risk. The question is: what is the risk? A good deal of the discussion that has just taken place is about what happens in the event of extremes, but the most important way to annihilate the risk is by reaching an agreement that supersedes the protocol altogether. If we want to see how probable an agreement is, we have only to listen to Mr Johnson, who said: “They are keen to sell us their prosecco”. The European Union is as keen to have a free trade agreement with us as we are to have one with it. In fact, its trade is greater towards us than our trade is to the EU. Therefore, the chances are high, to be judged on the facts as they are now, that there will be an agreement to supersede the protocol. That is what one has to measure. So far as I am concerned, the risk is negligible—a very unlikely event. I would feel sorry if the future of our United Kingdom, in this connection, were determined by an appreciation of a so-called risk that is practically negligible.