All Anna Soubry contributions to the Immigration (Armed Forces) Bill 2017-19

Tue 12th March 2019
3 interactions (158 words)

Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Opinion

(1st reading: House of Commons)
Anna Soubry Excerpts
Tuesday 12th March 2019

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Attorney General
Geoffrey Cox Portrait The Attorney General
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12 Mar 2019, 1:15 p.m.

I simply say to my hon. Friend that I really do not believe so. Why not? Because the commitments now cemented on alternative arrangements, which require a separate negotiating track, with a timetable to negotiate them, are now built in so that, as I have said in my written opinion, it would be extraordinary if the EU declined to adopt any such measures. It would be extraordinary, so I do not accept that the backstop is the base for any future arrangement. Let me give another reason why it is not. Built into the political declaration is an independent free trade policy, and we cannot have an independent free trade policy and have a customs union. Also built into it is no free movement. Does the Labour party support free movement now? It speaks with all sorts of voices. But the political declaration says there is none, and we cannot belong to the single market without free movement. So I say to my hon. Friend that I understand where these fears come from, but we must be bold and courageous, and we must move forward, for the sake of our country.

Anna Soubry Portrait Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) (Ind)
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12 Mar 2019, 1:16 p.m.

I, too, commend the Attorney General for his work and his efforts. I believe he has acted in all good faith. I also pay tribute to the Prime Minister, because there is no doubt that she has done her best to try to solve this problem and come back with something, but she simply has not been able to, as many of us had predicted. I am an old criminal barrister—[Interruption.] Who said, “Lock her up?” In all seriousness, criminal barristers tend to speak in plain, simple language, because we address juries. Does the Attorney General agree with this simple assessment of the joint instrument, which I have read: it does not change the withdrawal agreement, and it offers no new treaty or obligations at a treaty level? Will he also confirm that this is the end of the road—there are now no more negotiations with the EU, despite all his best efforts and those of the Government?

Geoffrey Cox Portrait The Attorney General
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12 Mar 2019, 1:12 p.m.

I do not agree with the right hon. Lady. This instrument will be deposited with the withdrawal agreement, and it contains material new obligations, which are couched in the language of agreement. That represents an agreement between the parties not only about the interpretation, but about specific operational commitments. This has a standing equal to the withdrawal agreement, including in its material commitments, particularly those relating to obligations of an operational character. So I do not agree with her; what she says is not right. We have to look at the substance, not the label.

The right hon. Lady asks whether negotiations are at an end. Yes, they are at an end. This is the moment of decision. We now have to take the fork in the road, and we are going to have to assume our responsibilities for it.