Attorney General's verdict
Cox says legal risks in EU deal remain ‘unchanged’
Theresa May: announced ‘legally binding’ changes
The Attorney General has said there are no significant changes to the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal despite her claims in Strasbourg last night to have secured the amendments demanded by MPs.
Geoffrey Cox said there remained no “internationally lawful means” of leaving the Irish backstop without the EU’s agreement.
He updated MPs on his legal opinion on the backstop, an insurance policy designed to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.
Mr Cox’s advice could detemine Theresa May’s hopes of winning a majority in the Commons tonight.
The pound, which had risen on hopes of a deal, plunged 0.7% to a day’s low of $1.3041. It had been as high as $1.329 earlier in the session. It also fell sharply against the euro, down by 1%.
The government’s senior law officer said the extra assurances won by Mrs May “reduce the risk” that the United Kingdom could be indefinitely and involuntarily detained in the backstop if talks on the two sides future relationship broke down due to “bad faith” by the EU.
But he added: “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 United Kingdom would have, at least while the fundamental circumstances remained the same, no internationally lawful means of exiting the Protocol’s arrangements, save by agreement.”
Keir Starmer, Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary, said: “The Attorney General has confirmed that there have been no significant changes to the Withdrawal Agreement despite the legal documents that were agreed last night.
“The Government’s strategy is now in tatters.”