Daily Mail

A wel­come dose of Brexit prag­ma­tism

- Brexit · European Politics · UK News · Politics · British Politics · British House of Commons · Northern Ireland · Ireland · United Kingdom · European Union · John Bercow · Geoffrey Cox

AF­TER all the blus­ter, pos­tur­ing and name-calling, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ge­of­frey Cox in­jected a dose of much-needed re­al­ism into the Brexit de­bate yes­ter­day.

In a mas­ter­ful Com­mons per­for­mance, the dis­tin­guished bar­ris­ter and prom­i­nent Brex­i­teer de­con­structed the Prime Min­is­ter’s deal with bru­tal can­dour.

No, it’s not per­fect. Yes, it car­ries cal­cu­lated risks. No, he was not com­fort­able with the North­ern Ire­land back­stop, or the fact that it could not be uni­lat­er­ally ter­mi­nated. And yes, there is a chance that the UK could re­main in the cus­toms union be­yond De­cem­ber 31, 2020, if a trade deal can’t be fi­nalised by then.

But for all the com­pro­mises, this was the best deal avail­able and he felt he must ac­cept it. With good faith and ‘the best en­deav­ours’ of both sides, it could pave the way to an or­derly with­drawal from the EU, he said. If oth­ers could come up with a bet­ter plan, they should present it.

Like any other di­vorce, Brexit stirs high emo­tions. But in­stead of the sound and fury that has so ex­as­per­ated the or­di­nary pub­lic, Mr Cox called for ‘ wis­dom, for­bear­ance and mea­sured eval­u­a­tion’.

The fact is, it’s in no-one’s in­ter­ests for the UK to be en­trapped per­ma­nently in a cus­toms limbo – and may well be against EU law. So why on earth should it hap­pen?

True, this was not the full, de­tailed Gov­ern­ment le­gal ad­vice de­manded by MPs. But it was a thor­ough and hon­est as­sess­ment of all the le­gal is­sues in play.

How petty and self- serv­ing then, that op­po­si­tion par­ties are still in­sist­ing – against all con­ven­tion – that the full ad­vice should be pub­lished, and calling for con­tempt pro­ceed­ings that could see Mr Cox ex­pelled from the Com­mons.

Sadly, Speaker John Ber­cow sided with the calls last night and a de­bate and vote by MPs will be held to­day. Had he be­lieved in fair­ness, he would have had noth­ing to do with it.

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