Sir Desmond Swayne 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 (50 words)

Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Opinion

(1st reading: House of Commons)
Sir Desmond Swayne 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, 1:28 p.m.

We have made a solemn pledge to the people of both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland that the border will be guaranteed never to be a hard border. That required the United Kingdom to say that in all normal circumstances we will not depart from that pledge. I repeat the point that I made to my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg): in the case of a fundamental change of circumstance, which is ultimately the sovereign right of this House and the Government to determine, the United Kingdom could withdraw, pursuant to customary international law. So it is not true to say that there is not ultimately the right of this House and the Government of the country at the time to exercise their discretion to do so in those circumstances. But in every other circumstance, we have said to the people of Northern Ireland, “We will ensure that your lives will be able to continue as they do now at the border.” I say that that act was worthy of this House, worthy of the Government and worthy of the British people, and it is one that is worthy of support.

Sir Desmond Swayne Portrait Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
12 Mar 2019, 1:29 p.m.

My right hon. and learned Friend has just said to my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg) that the United Kingdom would never do that, so why did he raise the possibility of our withdrawing from a treaty under the Vienna convention in the first place?

Mr Geoffrey Cox Portrait The Attorney General - Parliament Live - Hansard
12 Mar 2019, 1:29 p.m.

No, no, no. What I said to my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg) was that we would not do it in breach of the law. We are permitted, in a case of fundamental change of circumstances, to withdraw by the law. If such a change of circumstance came about—either because of some fundamental political change in Northern Ireland or some fundamental change of circumstance going to the essential basis of the agreement—then we would have the right to withdraw. But in all normal, envisageable and predictable circumstances, particularly while we are negotiating a subsequent agreement to the pace and accelerated timetable that this instrument now requires, we would not do so and it would be wrong to do so—wrong because it would be a breach of our obligations and wrong because this is a law-abiding country.