Tuesday, November 30

May dealt a backstop blow


 

 

Theresa May’s Brexit deal suffered a major blow today when her own Attorney General issued legal advice admitting that Britain could still be locked forever into EU rules through the Irish backstop.

The bombshell from the Government’s top lawyer Geoffrey Cox came just eight hours before MPs were due to stage the make-or-break Commons vote.

He concluded the legal risk remains unchanged that unless the UK could prove the EU was acting in bad faith in future, there was no internationally lawful means of exiting the Protocol’s arrangements, save by agreement.

His advice was a blow to Mrs May who secured three documents last night she hoped would be accepted by MPs as legally binding changes to protect the UK from being trapped indefinitely.

Mr Cox said in a letter setting out his opinion that tthe risk was reduced by ended by saying: The legal risk remains unchanged that if through no such demonstrable failure of either party, but simply because of intractable differences, that situation does arise, the UK would have, at least while the fundamentally circumstances remain the same, no internationally lawful means of exiting the Protocol’s arrangements, save by agreement.

Mr Cox’s advice was a blow to Mrs May who secured three documents last night that she hoped would be accepted by MPs as legally binding changes to protect the UK from being trapped indefinitely.

Mr Cox said in a letter setting out his opinion that the risk was reduced but ended by saying: The legal risk remains unchanged that if through no such demonstrable failure of either party, but simply because of intractable differences, that situation does arise, the UK would have, at least while the fundamental circumstances remained the same, no internationally lawful means of exiting the Protocol’s arrangements, save by agreement.

Earlier three top barristers said the 11th-hour changes do not come close to defusing the Irish border backstop row.

It is crystal clear that the measures do not alter the fundamental legal effect of the backstop, as previously and correctly explained by the Attorney General, stated the three lawyers, who include the Government’s former counter-terrorism adviser Lord Anderson, a leading expert in European and international law.

The Prime Minister flew home with two new documents that will sit alongside the withdrawal agreement that she shook hands on in November, plus a third setting out the UK’s own understanding of how the rules could work to prevent Britain being trapped indefinitely in the backstop.