Nothing has changed - Geoffrey Cox delivers his legal advice

PUBLISHED: 11:21 12 March 2019 | UPDATED: 11:36 12 March 2019

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.

Geoffrey Cox, the attorney general, has delivered his legal advice to cabinet and it confirms that nothing has changed.

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The legal advice deals a significant blow to the prime minister’s hopes of overturning MPs’ 230-vote rejection of her Withdrawal Agreement in the second “meaningful vote” on the deal in the House of Commons..

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said Cox had confirmed that “no significant changes” had been secured to the Withdrawal Agreement and the government’s strategy was “in tatters”.

Cox said that documents agreed in Strasbourg “reduce the risk that the United Kingdom could be indefinitely and involuntarily detained” in the backstop by EU bad faith or a failure by Brussels to use its “best endeavours” to negotiate a permanent deal on the future relationship.

But he warned that the question of whether a satisfactory agreement on a future UK/EU relationship can be reached remains “a political judgment”.

And he said that “the legal risk remains unchanged” that if no such agreement can be reached due to “intractable differences”, the UK would have “no internationally lawful means” of leaving the backstop without EU agreement.

Sir Keir said in a tweet: “Attorney general confirms 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.”

The advice echoes warnings from three of Britain’s most senior experts in European and international law on behalf of the People’s Vote campaign.

Best for Britain supporter Layla Moran MP said: “This is a disaster for the government. This must be the final nail in the coffin of this awful deal.

“There should be no lingering doubts: this deal will leave us trapped and surrenders our sovereignty. It doesn’t ‘take back control’ as Leavers wanted, and it’s a million miles away from what Remainers want.

“The government tried to pull the wool over parliament’s eyes last time and flopped. MPs must vote down this wretched deal, extend Article 50 and back the only credible route out of this Brexit mess – a public vote.”

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