Sir Edward Leigh 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 (156 words)

Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Opinion

(1st reading: House of Commons)
Sir Edward Leigh 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 - Hansard
12 Mar 2019, 1:32 p.m.

No, no, no. We have not been attempting to secure alternative arrangements now. We have been putting forward the fact that, in the future, all those alternative arrangements are likely to exist, so the European Union has responded by saying, “We will set up a new, special negotiating track, we will negotiate with an increased urgency and to a new timetable and we will implement these”—they have defined them—“customs procedures and technologies and so on.” So it is not right to say that the same situation arises now. These systems will be developed over time and that is the purpose of the working group that the Union has agreed to set up with this country.

Sir Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
12 Mar 2019, 1:33 p.m.

I thank the Attorney General for being so patient when I have been working on this unilateral declaration for the past two months and I thank him for including it in the final agreement, but may I ask him a detailed question because the devil is in the detail? There is no doubt, having worked with academic opinion, that a unilateral declaration is absolutely binding as long as it is deposited at the time the treaty is ratified. The unilateral declaration makes it clear that there is nothing to stop the UK leaving the backstop if talks break down, but it has to be a unilateral, conditional, interpretative declaration; that is what international law states. We are signing and agreeing to this withdrawal agreement only on condition—that is why the word “conditional” is important—that, if the talks break down, we can exit. So can the Attorney General now use the word “conditional” to reassure the House?

Mr Geoffrey Cox Portrait The Attorney General - Parliament Live - Hansard
12 Mar 2019, 1:33 p.m.

First, may I say to my right hon. Friend that I am extremely grateful for the dialogue that we have had and he was, in no small part, the author of the seeds of this idea. Much of the material that he and other distinguished lawyers have been able to contribute has led to the proposal that we have now adopted. But I say to him that the unilateral declaration in this case does not need to say “conditional” because it is not objected to by the Union and, if it is not objected to, and the withdrawal agreement is ratified by the Union, it becomes binding.