UK ‘could be stuck in EU ne­go­ti­a­tions’

South Wales Evening Post - - SMARTER FOR 10 -

LE­GAL ad­vice pro­vided to the Cab­i­net on Theresa May’s Brexit deal has warned it could re­sult in the UK be­com­ing stuck for many years in “pro­tracted and re­peat­ing rounds of ne­go­ti­a­tions” with no law­ful power to exit.

And it made clear that Brus­sels could ap­ply to an ar­bi­tra­tion panel for North­ern Ire­land to re­main in the EU cus­toms area while the rest of the UK left.

The six-page doc­u­ment by At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ge­of­frey Cox was re­leased to MPS a day after the House of Com­mons found the Gov­ern­ment in con­tempt of Par­lia­ment for try­ing to keep it se­cret.

The let­ter, dated Novem­ber 13, emerged just min­utes be­fore Theresa May faced MPS in a weekly ses­sion of Prime Min­is­ter’s Ques­tions ahead of the sec­ond day of a five-day Com­mons de­bate on her deal.

Demo­cratic Union­ist Party leader Nigel Dodds de­scribed it as “dev­as­tat­ing” and said it made clear that the pro­posed back­stop ar­range­ment for the Ir­ish bor­der was “un­ac­cept­able” and must be de­feated.

The Scot­tish Na­tional Party’s leader in West­min­ster, Ian Black­ford, called on Mrs May to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for “con­ceal­ing the facts on her Brexit deal” from MPS and the pub­lic.

But Mrs May re­jected the claim, in­sist­ing the doc­u­ment con­tained the same in­for­ma­tion as a short­ened state­ment made to MPS by Mr Cox ear­lier this week.

Shadow Brexit sec­re­tary Sir Keir Starmer said that the 33-para­graph doc­u­ment re­vealed “the cen­tral weak­nesses in the Gov­ern­ment’s deal”.

It is likely to be seized upon by Tory crit­ics of Mrs May’s deal, who ar­gue that the back­stop to keep the Ir­ish bor­der open will deny the UK power to with­draw from a cus­toms union with­out Brus­sels’ agree­ment.

Mr Cox found that the pro­to­col set­ting out the terms of the back­stop “does not pro­vide for a mech­a­nism that is likely to en­able the UK law­fully to exit the Uk-wide cus­toms union with­out a sub­se­quent agree­ment”.

Un­der the ar­range­ments, “for reg­u­la­tory pur­poses, GB is es­sen­tially treated as a third coun­try by NI for goods pass­ing from GB into NI”, he said.

And he said that – de­spite as­sur­ances from both sides that it is in­tended to be tem­po­rary – the pro­to­col would “en­dure in­def­i­nitely” un­der in­ter­na­tional law un­til an­other agree­ment takes its place.

But he also noted that the back­stop ar­range­ment would be “enor­mously com­plex” for the EU, re­quir­ing “con­sid­er­able re­sources”, mean­ing Brus­sels would come un­der pres­sure – es­pe­cially from Dublin – to bring it to an end.

Sir Keir said: “It is un­think­able that the Gov­ern­ment tried to keep this in­for­ma­tion from Par­lia­ment – and in­deed the pub­lic – be­fore next week’s vote.”

Green MP Caro­line Lu­cas said it was “weird” that the Cab­i­net was not pro­vided with for­mal le­gal ad­vice on the back­stop un­til the very day that the Com­mons voted for it to be re­leased.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ge­of­frey Cox

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.