Breaking: May’s legal advice confirms UK can only exit with EU’s ok

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Theresa May has published information on the legal advice the government received on the implications of her withdrawal ‘deal’ with the EU.

Two sections of the information made available are likely to spell the end of her career and probably of her government.

Page 26 of the document spells out that the agreement has no firm end date or ‘any provision for its termination’ – and that the UK has no power to extricate itself from the agreement without the EU’s agreement:

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The ‘Review’ section, on pages 31 and 32, address the provisions specific to Northern Ireland – the so-called ‘backstop’. Those provisions make clear that while either the UK or EU can say they think the provisions are no longer needed, all they can do is notify the other party and arrange to ‘meet to consider it‘:

6. The first paragraph provides that if at any time after the end of the implementation period the EU or the UK considers that the Protocol is, in whole or in part, no longer necessary to achieve the objectives set out in Article 1(3) and should cease to apply, in whole or in part, it may notify the other party, setting out its reasons.
7. The conditions in Article 1(3), as described above, are that the Protocol is necessary “to address the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland, maintain the necessary conditions for continued North-South cooperation, avoid a hard border and protect the 1998 Agreement in all its dimensions.” These conditions would be met if the parties had established alternative arrangements for ensuring the absence of a hard border.
32 EU Exit: Legal position on the Withdrawal Agreement
8. Under the second paragraph of Article 20, within six months of receiving such a notification, the Joint Committee must meet at ministerial level to consider it,

But the fact that the UK’s hands are tied and can only be freed if the EU agrees is spelled out clearly:


The Journal newspaper in the Irish Republic recognised the significance of the wording in no uncertain terms:

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Attorney General Geoffrey Cox has been speaking to MPs and has attempted to emphasise that the agreement says both parties must use their ‘best endeavours’ to end the agreement and are required to do so on a ‘good faith’ basis.

But the hollowness of any hope of unilateral escape by means of a claim of bad faith is clear in section 11 of the advice document’s annex:

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The released document can be downloaded here.

SKWAWKBOX comment:

To all realistic intents and purposes, the draft Withdrawal Agreement binds the UK to May’s desperately bad ‘deal’ with the EU for as long as it suits the EU.

Now that May has been forced to put the obvious truth on the official record, the vote on her deal next week looks unwinnable for the lame-duck PM.

And Labour’s motion of no confidence will be hot on the heels of the loss.


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  1. A General Election would be the best Christmas present our half of the country could wish for.

    So let battle commence!

    No Jingle Bells. Just tick tock, Terry Fuckwit!

  2. Isn’t the point about Britain’s inability to terminate the Brexit deal “backstop” already rather obvious?

    Less obvious is that in paras. 62-65 on Competition, the legal opinion fails to cut through the legalese and reveal the drastic reductions in the ability of a British government to extend public ownership. It’s a Blairite’s dream.

    The document does at least mention that the EU will control our state subsidies to British industry.

    The Labour Left should never accept ANY EU deal – or any supranational deal with anyone else come to that – which in any way compromises our ability to grant state subsidies and to extend public ownership.

  3. I would recommend most heartily that anyone interested in the background to all of this looks into the subject of Ordoliberalism. It is basically Thatcherism on Speed, and is the political principle that has guided the formulation of the various EU treaties. In agreeing to them, our political class voluntarily signed up to political impotence. You will be surprised and appalled in equal measure.

    1. Ordoliberalism as I understand it is neoliberalism ‘policed by the state to optimise results’ – clearly no longer credible in a time of globalisation and mobile money.
      No individual state can impose its will on today’s larger corporations – something of a conundrum for Tories and other right wing governments with their free market “principles” of limited government and naive trust that the 1% will repay them handsomely for handing over the keys to their (our) kingdoms.

      Only internationally co-operating socialist governments can force globally-mobile corporations to pay their taxes or do anything else to benefit the rest of us.

      1. ” holding on to NI.”

        Are you really that simplistically ill-informed about the situation?

  4. When a Tory government attempts to make socialism illegal by treating with foreign powers I don’t think it’s unreasonable to try them for the traitors they are – and all their other crimes against democracy – when we’ve taken power away from them.
    I also believe such attempts legitimise any and all action to dislodge the aforementioned traitors from power.

    Been wanting to say that out loud for a while.

  5. OK we now know for sure what we all held to be a hidden truth regarding being locked into the EU prison.
    But I just wonder how many, not having read the document, had ever given any thought ,other than a passing notion, thought May had a clause or clauses written in to the document regarding the restating what is now Article 62-65.
    There are still clauses in the present rules on Competiton that disallow the nationalisation or indeed renationalisation of Industries which all have to be the subject of open to market forces.
    So no Brexit will mean NO to Labour Party policy of Renationalisation and Nationalisation of goods and services.

  6. Errr … Trouble is – the majority of Labour voters and Party members don’t see La La Land in Brexit impoverishment.

    The fact that Trump *does* see an opportunity might give pause for thought.

    1. You keep saying this nonsense over and over again. Remain polls suggest that party members support remain while YouGov members who also claim to be Labour voters support remain. Stop posting fake news.

      1. I agree with what you, Labour members and voters do support Remain and from my reading of RH’s comment so does he.

      2. Hi Donald – ‘fake news, eh’ ?- the mass of evidence about reality that doesn’t comply with your predilection?

        In the referendum, 65% of Labour supporters voted ‘Remain’.

        The vast majority of survey evidence shows this preference as hardening – with some 82% favoring a second referendum.

        Even ‘pragmatic’ support for some ‘deal’ doesn’t undermine the essential preference for remaining in the EU.

        Sorry – the Labour Party is a Party that overwhelmingly thinks Brexit a damaging idea that will handicap the Party in fulfilling its policies. In my experience, that overall conclusion is arrived at whilst recognising all the faults of the EU – i.e. by weighing up the evidence. Lexit is a trivial pursuit in comparison.

        The problem for the Party is how to handle the fact – not only in terms of solid support, but in terms of creating a majority.

      3. Sorry – I think I misread your post – as you misread mine (see SteveH).

        Perhaps my last post clarifies. I use ‘La La Land’ as a scathing term that portrays Brexit as the road to a New Jerusalem, when the facts are that it will impoverish the country and make it subject to the whims of far worse alternatives than the EU.


    EU Advocate General says the UK can unilaterally revoke article 50.

    1. Hadn’t seen that Steve, so Googled it just now.

      CNBC had this:
      “On Tuesday, the European Court of Justice’s advocate general issued a non-binding opinion on whether Britain could cancel Brexit without asking the permission of other countries.”

      Thing is… the one thing I think we could all agree on is that “non-binding opinions” are exactly what got us into this mess in the first place.

      1. I appreciate that it is non binding (hence my wording) but according to reports on BBC R4 and Sky News it would be very unusual for the court not to follow the AG’S recommendation. So for now I’m going to treat it as good news.

      2. Does it make May’s job of selling her deal easier, harder or have no effect?
        I’m not sure but I suspect it will make people think EU’s attitude is softening and that might just save her bacon.

      3. I doubt it, but I guess we’ll all have to wait and see how it all pans out over the next few days.

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