Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Opinion DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Mr Owen PatersonMain Page: Mr Owen Paterson (Conservative) - North Shropshire)
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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.
As my right hon. Friend knows, if the parties, using best endeavours, in complete sincerity with co-operation and good faith, are simply unable to agree anything, not even a few alternative arrangements or a partial agreement—the subsequent agreement referred to in the protocol can of course be a stand-alone agreement—the UK has no unilateral exit right to leave, unless there were a fundamental change of circumstance under article 62 of the Vienna convention on the law of treaties. My right hon Friend knows that, but the question is: is it likely? What this deal has now done is place the burden on the EU to negotiate those alternative arrangements, as a result of his work, in part. I say to him that he should trust in himself, trust in the British people and trust in our ability to deliver a good deal. We can use the new contexts in this agreement, and I believe we will secure a good deal for the Northern Irish border.