Attorney-General confirms Vox Political’s view of new ‘backstop’ arrangements

How kind of Geoffrey Cox, the attorney-general, to confirm This Site’s appraisal of what the assurances Theresa May has brought back from Strasbourg mean.

I wrote earlier that the “joint statement” and “joint legally-binding instrument” on the Northern Irish border backstop simply delay the need for the UK to find “alternative arrangements” to the controversial stopgap protocol until December 2020, by which time Theresa May could have ceased to be prime minister. I suggested that she was trying to pass the poisoned chalice to someone else.

Today, Mr Cox has said “the legal risk remains unchanged that … the United Kingdom would have … no internationally lawful means of exiting the protocol’s arrangements, save by agreement”.

So nothing has changed, to quote Mrs May’s own infamous remarks of a few years ago.

Apparently the DUP, the Northern Irish party propping up Mrs May’s minority government, has already said it cannot back her in today’s meaningful vote, on the basis of this information.

And it is well worth remembering that the votes in Parliament today (March 12) are about much more than the backstop, as the economist Jonathan Portes points out:

He wrote: “There is no option that will resolve the cloud of uncertainty that hangs over the UK economy any time soon, and none which can credibly claim to avert the risk of substantial long-term damage. The chancellor famously claimed that ‘no one voted to be poorer’. Maybe, maybe not. But… most of our elected representatives will almost certainly – one way or the other – do just that.”

The alternative is a political crisis which may result in something even worse – or something better. All things considered, I’ll take the crisis.

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