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 Keen of Elie Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice) 6:30 pm, 12th March 2019

My Lords, with respect to the two points raised, a unilateral declaration by one party can have legal status as an interpretive document in the context of international law. In circumstances where the other party does not object to the unilateral statement, it will be seen to have legal status with regard to that party’s interpretation of the relevant treaty. In that context, I therefore see no difficulty with the opinion expressed by the Attorney-General on that point.

On the suggestion that the arbitration will be shrouded in mystery because of the need to refer a point of law to the European Court of Justice, I remind the noble Lord of my response to a question from him some time ago, when I pointed out that the real issue will be of fact, not law. It is therefore difficult to envisage the European Court of Justice having any material role in the context of a dispute over good faith or best endeavours.