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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 Kerr of Kinlochard Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Crossbench 6:30 pm, 12th March 2019

There are two other options. We could of course change the law and we could take an extension under Article 50. I think there are new elements in the new texts. I do not think they remedy what is, for me, a humiliatingly bad deal, but I see two new elements. First, there is a greater urgency—or an impression of urgency—in the treatment of the search for alternative arrangements to the backstop. The impression created is that the philosopher’s stone will be more actively sought. That does not guarantee that the philosopher’s stone will be found, and that is the risk that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, might want to bear in mind as well.

The second point is more legal than political. I see a change in the treatment of the risk of being trapped in the backstop because the European Union breaks the commitment in Article 5 of the withdrawal agreement to exercise good faith. As the Minister said, however, that is a vanishingly small risk. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, said, the real risk is that the search for a mutually acceptable solution—a workable alternative arrangement—continues for some considerable time to prove fruitless. That is the real risk. Alchemy is like that. Does the Minister agree? Does he also agree with Mr Varadkar that the texts are perfectly acceptable because the withdrawal agreement has not been reopened and the backstop not been undermined?