Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg 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 (57 words)

Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Opinion

(1st reading: House of Commons)
Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg 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, 1:25 p.m.

And so it was under that particular Prime Minister! I was telling the hon. Gentleman the complete truth, as I am telling him it now. I have forgotten what the other question was—that was a betrayal of robing room talk. I am so taken aback by that question that I think I had better sit down.

Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
12 Mar 2019, 1:25 p.m.

My right hon. and learned Friend has pointed out that much of what is being said is political as well as legal. Will he therefore set out for the House what penalties might fall upon this country if a future Parliament, which obviously cannot be bound, were to decide to resile from the commitments under the backstop?

Mr Geoffrey Cox Portrait The Attorney General - Parliament Live - Hansard
12 Mar 2019, 1:20 p.m.

Well, my hon. Friend will know that as an Attorney General I simply could not give countenance to the idea that this country would break its international legal obligations. As I have pointed out to the House, there is a right for the United Kingdom to terminate this agreement. If fundamental circumstances change, in the view of the United Kingdom, it would attempt to resolve the matter within the joint committee and it would attempt to resolve it politically, but if, ultimately, with the sovereign right of this House and of the British Government at the time, the United Kingdom took the view that those fundamental circumstances had indeed changed, it would have an undoubted legal right to withdrawal from any treaty.

Let us be clear about these kinds of absolute interpretations of black-letter text. A sovereign state has the right to withdraw if a treaty is no longer compatible with its fundamental interests or, to put it a different way, if fundamental circumstances have changed. I would say that apart from that, of course this country could resile from its commitments, but it would be unwise and it would not be in the tradition of this country to do so. In those circumstances, it is perfectly true that the only remedies the Union would have would be to take countermeasures, and no doubt it would pollute the atmosphere for fruitful relationships between us, which is precisely why this country will never do it, and neither would the European Union.