Mr Steve Baker 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 (97 words)

Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Opinion

(1st reading: House of Commons)
Mr Steve Baker 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, 1:12 p.m.

The hon. Lady can shake her head, but she has to look at the wording—at the text. If I have got something wrong, she will no doubt tell me, but the fact is that there are materially new obligations here in relation to the pace and timetable, and in relation to binding legal commitments on alternative arrangements. These set the context against which and within which the duties in respect of bad faith and best endeavours will be measured. That is a significant difference to the deal.

Mr Steve Baker Portrait Mr Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
12 Mar 2019, 1:12 p.m.

Paragraph 23 of the political declaration makes it clear that we would

“build and improve on the single customs territory provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement”.

We know what the EU understands that to mean. In good faith and with best endeavours, it understands it to mean a customs union, as Dan Hannan MEP reminded us earlier. So is it not the case that if we negotiate under this agreement, we will either find ourselves trapped indefinitely in the backstop, because the EU is acting “in good faith”, or have to agree a customs union, contrary to our manifesto?

Mr Geoffrey Cox Portrait The Attorney General - Parliament Live - Hansard
12 Mar 2019, 1:15 p.m.

I simply say to my hon. Friend that I really do not believe so. Why not? Because the commitments now cemented on alternative arrangements, which require a separate negotiating track, with a timetable to negotiate them, are now built in so that, as I have said in my written opinion, it would be extraordinary if the EU declined to adopt any such measures. It would be extraordinary, so I do not accept that the backstop is the base for any future arrangement. Let me give another reason why it is not. Built into the political declaration is an independent free trade policy, and we cannot have an independent free trade policy and have a customs union. Also built into it is no free movement. Does the Labour party support free movement now? It speaks with all sorts of voices. But the political declaration says there is none, and we cannot belong to the single market without free movement. So I say to my hon. Friend that I understand where these fears come from, but we must be bold and courageous, and we must move forward, for the sake of our country.