Theresa “Treason” May engaged in political theatre last night, flying to Strasbourg to meet EU president Jean-Claude Juncker, purportedly to clinch a “deal”.
In January, May’s deal was voted down by 230 votes, the greatest defeat suffered in history by any British government. The vote on the ‘improved’ version of her deal - which is said to include new legal assurances - is expected at 7 pm UK time tonight, and it looks like it has about a snowball in hell’s chance of getting through.
Now the Attorney General Geoffrey Cox has just admitted in his written legal advice that little or nothing has changed in the latest ‘improved’ deal, and the legal risks of Britain becoming a vassal state trapped in the “backstop” and still subservient to the EU remain the same.
Although in trying to glean some positive spin he writes, “I now consider that the legally binding provisions of the Joint Instrument and the content of the Unilateral Declaration reduce the risk that the United Kingdom could be indefinitely and involuntarily detained within the Protocol’s provisions at least in so far as that situation had been brought about by the bad faith or want of best endeavours of the EU.”
But tellingly, he adds, “However, the legal risk remains unchanged that if through no such demonstrable failure of either party, but simply because of intractable differences, that situation does arise, the United Kingdom would have, at least while the fundamental circumstances remained the same, no internationally lawful means of exiting the Protocol’s arrangements, save by agreement.”
Cox’s 19-point written legal advice has only just been published in full, so the government is giving MPs barely more than seven hours to read and digest it before the vote.