Robert Courts 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 (137 words)

Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Opinion

(1st reading: House of Commons)
Robert Courts 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, 11:30 a.m.

I am not convinced that I fully understood the question, perhaps because I did it too much justice and thought it might be a sensible one. The truth is that I doubt I agree with it.

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts (Witney) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
12 Mar 2019, 11:30 a.m.

May I place on the record at the outset that, whatever one may think of the issues at stake, the integrity and honesty of the Attorney General are absolutely above question? I commend him for his approach. Much of this agreement requires consideration of the concept of bad faith, so will he please outline what circumstances would constitute bad faith and how the UK might prove them, bearing in mind that, as he will know, international arbitrators are loth to find that a sovereign state such as the UK or a respected body such as the EU have acted in bad faith? Is it not the case that, were the EU to continue to propose ideas that were in good faith but unacceptable to the UK, such as a customs union, these proposals would not assist us?

Mr Geoffrey Cox Portrait The Attorney General - Parliament Live - Hansard
12 Mar 2019, 11:30 a.m.

No, I do not agree. The position is more nuanced than that. The pattern of refusing to accept reasonable proposals such as alternative arrangements that could not be said to compromise fundamental interests at the border would be raised immediately—a prima facie question. A pattern of consistent refusal would raise a prima facie question over the best endeavours and good faith clause. As my hon. Friend will have seen, some of these provisions are already in the joint instrument, including systematic conduct, declining to consider, declining to be flexible and declining to consider adverse interests. These best endeavours duties are real duties that are contained in commercial contracts all the time. They are litigated and brought to court, as he will know. We must not allow our fears to run away with us. We need to trust ourselves. We can make the leverage of the backstop as powerful an argument for them not to remain in it as it is for us.