Attorney General Geoffrey Cox launched a searing attack on MPs planning to torpedo the Brexit deal today – demanding they stop acting like ‘children’.
As the temperature rose in the Commons ahead of the crunch vote tonight, Mr Cox accused them of risking ‘chaos’ and ‘playing with people’s lives’.
In brutal clashes, he fended off claims from Remainers and Brexiteers that the package thrashed out by Theresa May would be bad for the country.
He warned them not to underestimate the legal complexity of leaving the EU after 45 years, saying the deal offered a chance for ‘order and predictability’.
‘It provides for the orderly and predictable and legally certain winding-down of our obligations and involvement in the legal systems of the EU,’ Mr Cox said.
Mr Cox also used his bombastic speech to warn Remain MPs the UK cannot ‘pause’ the Brexit process by revoking Article 50.
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox (pictured today making his speech) launched a searing attack on MPs planning to torpedo the Brexit deal today
Mr Cox also used his bombastic speech to warn Remain MPs the UK cannot ‘pause’ the Brexit process by revoking Article 50
In brutal clashes, he fended off claims from Remainers and Brexiteers that the package thrashed out by Theresa May would be bad for the country
‘If we do not legislate for that legal certainty as a matter of law alone, thousands of contracts, thousands of transactions, thousands of administrative proceedings, of judicial proceedings in the European Union and this country, will be plunged into legal uncertainty.
‘It would be the height of irresponsibility for any legislator to contemplate with equanimity such a situation.
‘If you were a litigant in a court, if you were dependent upon having concluded a contract on the basis of EU law and you found yourself suddenly with the rug pulled from under you, not knowing what your legal obligations would be, you would say to this House ‘What are you playing at? What are you doing? You are not children in the playground, you are legislators’ – we are playing with people’s lives.’
Mr Cox laid into Remainer calls for the process to be temporarily halted, insisting the EU would need ‘evidence’ that the country will not try to leave again.
The eminent QC revealed his view after former Cabinet minister Ken Clark pointed to to the ruling by the European Court of Justice on Article 50.
Judges concluded that the UK had the right to withdraw the Brexit notification unilaterally before the end of March, and keep the current membership terms.
But Mr Cox told Mr Clarke: ‘We cannot revoke Article 50 unless we provide satisfactory evidence to the EU that we are cancelling our departure from the EU.
‘Not suspending it, not pausing it – cancelling it.’
Mr Cox urged MPs to come together as ‘mature legislators’, adding: ‘Whether it can be done by March 29 or whether it can’t does not affect the decision we have to take today – which is do we opt for order or do we choose chaos?’
Mr Cox – a strident Brexiteer – said he was backing the Withdrawal Agreement for ‘wholly pragmatic reasons’ as he opened the final day of debate before tonight’s crunch vote.
‘In the past, when this country has faced these kinds of grave obstacles and impediments to finding a way forward, the members of this place have found the resource within themselves to achieve a compromise and to subordinate their ideal preference solution that they would like to see for that which commands a degree of consensus.’
He added: ‘It is precisely for that reason that I support the Withdrawal Agreement, not because I like every element of it but for wholly pragmatic reasons. It is the necessary means to secure our orderly departure and unlock our future outside the European Union.’
Tory MP and leading Remainer Ken Clarke said he was being ‘pragmatic’ in supporting the PM’s deal ‘to minimise the damage’ of Brexit.
The MP for Rushcliffe said: ‘The vote on invoking Article 50 revealed to me there is not the slightest chance of persuading the present House of Commons to give up leaving the EU because they’re terrified of denying the EU referendum.’
And he accused arch-Brexiteers of ‘paranoia’ over claims the Irish backstop is some sort of plot to prevent Brexit.
He said: ‘The Withdrawal Agreement in itself is harmless – the Irish backstop is not really the reason why a large number of members of this House are going to vote against it.
‘You have got to be suffering from some sort of paranoia in my opinion to think the Irish backstop is some carefully contrived plot to keep the British locked into European relationships which they are dying to escape from.
The debate in the Commons is being overseen by Speaker John Bercow (pictured during today’s debate), who has been accused of trying to frustrate the Brexit process
‘It’s obviously as unattractive to the other EU members as it is to the UK to settle down into some semi-permanent relationship on the basis of the Irish backstop.’
Labour MP Rachel Reeves lashed the Brexit deal and demanded the Government rule out Britain crashing out f the EU with no deal.
But Mr Cox replied: ‘She can eliminate no deal today, all she has to do is vote for this one.
‘And the reality is, it is the height of irresponsibility for the party opposite claiming to be a party of Government to plunge millions of our citizens into legal uncertainty of the type because of a factitious trumped up basis of opposition.
‘Whereas the real strategy is to drive this Government and House onto the rocks, create the maximum chaos and to create the conditions for a general election. We know the game I say, it’s as clear as day.’