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Legal Withdrawal Agreement

Legal Opinion on Joint Instrument and Unilateral Declaration

The Attorney General wrote to the Prime Minister setting out his legal opinion on the Joint Instrument and Unilateral Declaration concerning the Withdrawal Agreement. (12 March 2019)

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/legal-opinion-on-joint-instrument-and-unilateral-declaration-concerning-the-withdrawal-agreement

Legal Opinion 120319 (copy pdf)

Dear Prime Minister,

Legal Opinion on Joint Instrument and Unilateral Declaration concerning the Withdrawal Agreement

1. I have considered the documents entitled “Instrument Relating To The Agreement On The Withdrawal Of The United Kingdom Of Great Britain And Northern Ireland From The European Union And The European Atomic Energy Community“(the “Joint Instrument“) and the “Declaration By Her Majesty’s Government Of The United Kingdom Of Great Britain And Northern Ireland Concerning The Northern Ireland Protocol” (the “Unilateral Declaration“), which were concluded with the EU late last night.

2. As the preamble states, the Joint Instrument is an instrument relating to the Withdrawal Agreement which was made in connection with its conclusion and is accepted by both parties. Therefore, pursuant to the principle set out in Article 31 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, which is widely accepted as reflecting customary international law, the Joint Instrument has binding legal effect as a document that is to be taken as an authentic interpretation of the Withdrawal Agreement.

3. The Unilateral Declaration sets out the United Kingdom’s position on the Withdrawal Agreement and the Joint Instrument. A unilateral declaration by one party to a bilateral agreement constitutes an authentic interpretation of the treaty if it is accepted by the other party. While it is not an agreed document, it too has legal status as an interpretative document, and will be lodged with the depositary of the Withdrawal Agreement and form part of the context of the treaty in accordance with the principle set out in Article 31 of the Vienna Convention.

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Withdrawal Agreement

Attorney General to PM on the NI Protocol, 14 January 2019

Publication of a letter from the Attorney General to the Prime Minister on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The Attorney General wrote to the Prime Minister regarding the Northern Ireland Protocol in response to the letters exchanged between the Prime Minister and the Presidents of the European Commission and Council setting out assurances and clarifications with regard to the Northern Ireland backstop.

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Legal Withdrawal Agreement

Exiting the EU: Publication of Legal Advice

The Government has published and made available to Parliament, the Attorney General’s legal advice to Cabinet on the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland following the Motion passed on 04 December 2018 in the House of Commons.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/exiting-the-eu-publication-of-legal-advice

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/761852/05_December-_EU_Exit_Attorney_General_s_legal_advice_to_Cabinet_on_the_Withdrawal_Agreement_and_the_Protocol_on_Ireland-Northern_Ireland.pdf

This is the full, final advice that the Attorney General provided to Cabinet on 14 November on the legal effect of the Withdrawal Agreement. The release of this advice does not set a precedent for any future release of Law Officers’ advice.

An extract from the advice indicates that it could be difficult to leave the backstop arrangement:

In conclusion, the current drafting of the Protocol, including Article 19, does not provide for a mechanism that is likely to enable the UK to lawfully to exit the UK wide customs union without a subsequent agreement. This remains the case even if parties are still negotiating many years later, and even if the parties believe, that talks have clearly broken down and there is no prospect of a future relationship agreement. The resolution of such a stalemate would have to be political.

Legal Advice (copy of document)