The UK Government is under significant pressure over its refusal to publish the legal advice provided on the Brexit deal by Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, even though a parliamentary motion ordering it to be done has been passed.
Cox is speaking to the House of Commons where he will be asked about the leak in the Sunday Times of a letter he wrote in which he admitted that the UK would be trapped “indefinitely” in a customs union with the EU if the much vaunted backstop kicks in.
Theresa May is under significant pressure as it emerges that a confidential analysis of the Withdrawal Agreement by her own legal team agreed with President Trump that Theresa May’s Brexit deal would stop the UK from entering trade deals with other countries like the USA.
The outstanding investigative work was done by Brexit Central and said: The bombshell is contained in a 27-page legal note prepared by the House of Commons EU Legislation Team, which is headed by Arnold Ridout, its Counsel for European Legislation. A highly respected specialist in EU Law, he has previously worked for the EC Commission’s Legal Service and advised the European Secretariat of the Cabinet Office and prior to taking up his current role in 2014, he was Deputy Legal Adviser to the House of Lords EU Select Committee.
The note – marked ‘not for general distribution’ and obtained by BrexitCentral – is dated 26th November and states that the UK-EU customs union which would come into effect if the backstop is triggered “would be a practical barrier to the UK entering separate trade agreements on goods with third countries”. This is in direct contradiction to the Prime Minister who has insisted that her deal will allow the UK to have an entirely independent trade policy. Indeed, she told the House of Commons just last Monday how “for the first time in 40 years, the UK will be able to strike new trade deals and open up new markets for our goods and services”.
The legal note – titled The Withdrawal Agreement: Legal and Governance Aspects – also appears to suggest that the Prime Minister’s claim (also repeated last Monday) that her deal “takes back control of our laws” by ending “the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK” with “our laws being made in our Parliament, enforced by our courts” does not entirely stand up to scrutiny. In its summary of “Continued application of EU law”, the note states:
EU law will apply during the TIP [transition or implementing period], but essentially without formal UK participation in its making;
EU law will apply after the TIP to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK. This could extend for some considerable period.
EU law also will apply after the TIP in relation to the Separation Issues and the Financial Settlement. Again, this could extend for a considerable period.
EU law will apply extensively, particularly in Northern Ireland, under the “Backstop” found in the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol.
EU law in relation to goods, turnover taxes, agriculture and fisheries as well as veterinary and phytosanitary rules will apply in the Sovereign Base Areas of Cyprus.
One Tory MP who sits on International Trade board said in response:
This document identifies and explains many of the very serious legal problems for the UK that would emerge from the Prime Minister’s proposed Withdrawal Agreement, should it be approved. It is wishful thinking and irresponsible to accept the Government’s spin of this damaging legal reality, or to think it could be used as a basis for successful further negotiation.
I don’t believe any MP in possession of these facts could in good conscience ignore them and support the Withdrawal Agreement. The EU and UK have a great future as friends, but this is not the way to achieve it. Let’s waste no more time, prepare for all eventualities, and work constructively for an advanced but regular Free Trade Agreement which respects the independence and integrity of our jurisdictions while making trade and community relations smooth, effective and efficient.
We have set out how to do this, contrary to the Government’s attempt to say otherwise, and there is no reason a plan and schedule for ratification of such an agreement cannot be agreed by the end of March so conditions remain smooth from the end of March until that happens. That is the way to preserve the faith the people of the UK have in their politics, and we need a Government that will ask for it.”