Attorney General Geoffrey Cox has delivered his much awaited legal advice on May’s changes to the backstop, concluding that the “legal risk remains unchanged”. This is the last thing Number 10 will have wanted to see…
In Cox’s view, May did succeed in securing some legally-binding changes, he says the provisions of the ‘Joint Instrument’ “extend beyond mere interpretation of the Withdrawal Agreement and represent materially new legal obligations and commitments, which amplify its existing terms and make time of the essence in replacing the backstop.”
Cox says it does “reduce the risk” that the UK could be “indefinitely and involuntarily” trapped in the backstop but with the key caveat “at least in so far as that situation had been brought about by the bad faith or want of best endeavours of the EU”.
His final conclusion remains damning: the UK would have “no internationally lawful means of exiting the Protocol’s arrangements, save by agreement.” Game over for May’s deal?