Seema Malhotra 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 (143 words)

Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Opinion

(1st reading: House of Commons)
Seema Malhotra 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

Let me make it clear: the United Kingdom is the United Kingdom, it includes Northern Ireland and there is no circumstance in which the Government of this country, and certainly not a Conservative Government, will ever leave Northern Ireland behind, subject to the obligations under the Belfast agreement. That has been proposed, as my hon. Friend knows. It has been proposed that we should have a termination right for GB only and the Prime Minister explained why that was unacceptable.

Seema Malhotra Portrait Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op) - Parliament Live - Hansard
12 Mar 2019, 11:30 a.m.

The Attorney General says that the joint instrument and the content of the unilateral declaration relating to the withdrawal agreement

“reduce the risk that the United Kingdom could be indefinitely and involuntarily”

held in the backstop in the event of bad faith, but surely that was only ever a very limited risk. Is it not true that the far greater risk of being held in the backstop indefinitely is not as a result of the failure of either party to act in good faith, but because of intractable differences? In such circumstances, is it not right that the people of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland should have the confidence that measures that they can trust will be in place to prevent a hard border, and that the backstop would be exited upon a new agreement being reached? Does not that make perfect sense?

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

It does make perfect sense. I have to say that I would have preferred to have seen a right of termination, mitigated and graduated, fairly balancing and apportioning risk, and only useable in a last resort, but the Union was not willing to agree to such a reasonable—and what I considered to be moderate—proposal. I agree with the hon. Lady, which is why I voted for the deal. It is sensible that that assurance can be given, and that is why the British Government have given it. I would say, though, that best endeavours is not—particularly now, with the context heightened and the benchmarks tightened—a meaningless duty, because best endeavours requires that a party should consider proposals that are contrary to its interests, and it may have to accept them. A party cannot go on refusing something that requires a reasonable adjustment in its position.