Caroline Lucas contributions to the Immigration (Armed Forces) Bill 2017-19

Tue 12th March 2019 Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Opinion (Commons Chamber)
1st reading: House of Commons
3 interactions (113 words)

Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Opinion

(1st reading: House of Commons)
Caroline Lucas Excerpts
Tuesday 12th March 2019

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Attorney General
Mr Geoffrey Cox Portrait The Attorney General - Parliament Live - Hansard
12 Mar 2019, 1:21 p.m.

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend on that. With the law, we are not able to put something into a test tube, hold it over a Bunsen burner and, if it turns green, get the answer. The law is a question of judgment, and it is always blended with political considerations or, in a commercial context, with commercial considerations. The preponderance of the two form a single judgment. It is my judgment, as my hon. Friend knows, that this risk is a calculated one, but one that we can now take. I firmly believe that these new improvements make that risk more acceptable and easier for the House to take.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green) - Parliament Live - Hansard
12 Mar 2019, 1:22 p.m.

May I press the Attorney General on the status of the joint instrument? Last night, the Minister for the Cabinet Office claimed that

“the joint instrument has equal status in law to the withdrawal agreement itself”—[Official Report, 11 March 2019; Vol. 656, c. 132.]

and that they both have

“the status of treaties under international law”.—[Official Report, 11 March 2019; Vol. 656, c. 135.]

However, legal advice that I have seen says:

“The Joint Instrument is not incorporated into the Withdrawal Agreement, it is not a Protocol to the Withdrawal Agreement and it is not a treaty in its own right.”

Will the Attorney General clarify whether the Minister for the Cabinet Office inadvertently misled the House last night?

Mr Geoffrey Cox Portrait The Attorney General - Parliament Live - Hansard
12 Mar 2019, 1:23 p.m.

I would need to see the hon. Lady’s quotation in detail. The position is that if you agree and put your name to a joint instrument of this kind, you are bound by it. You are bound by it as to its interpretation and, if it expresses agreement to specific operational commitments, as this one does, you are bound by it on those, because it is an agreement that you will then carry out those specific commitments. It is an agreement, so we should not get hung up on labels. The question is: what is its substance? It is binding.