Withholding The £39 Billion Will Be Illegal Says Attorney General

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Britain’s Attorney General states that withholding the £39 billion divorce settlement with the European Union would be illegal. The thing to note about this is that the Attorney General is a political position and his advice is thus political. Sure, the conceit is that he’s an impartial law officer put into government so that there is an impartial adviser upon what the law is. But that’s to miss the fact that he’s also a politician with all the usual political desires and wiles:

Cox legal advice could thwart Boris Johnson’s plan to withhold Brexit bill payments

The standard joke is the desire to find a one handed economist – any three will have at least 6 opinions on any one subject. This is as nothing to the number of palms in a gathering of lawyers, only some of which are waiting to be crossed with silver. That’s rather going to be the outcome in any adversarial system of justice – rather the point in fact. That either and every side of each instance can and will be argued.

Boris Johnson will have to over-rule existing government legal advice if he wants to make good on his promise to withhold the £39bn Brexit bill in order to win a better deal from the EU, The Telegraph can reveal. Mr Johnson, who is now hot favourite to win the Tory leadership contest, has threatened to “retain” the promised financial settlement until the European Union has provided “greater clarity” about the future EU-UK trading relationship. However several Whitehall sources have confirmed that on-record internal legal advice from Geoffrey Cox, the attorney-general, has warned that linking Brexit bill payments to the progress of any trade talks would be illegal.

Not that it matters particularly because the argument being made is not that “We’ll keep the money until you do what we want on trade”. It is, instead “Nothing is agreed until all is agreed” which is exactly what the EU itself has been saying. And who can argue against a negotiating tactic which is precisely what has been insisted upon from the start?

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Leo Savantt
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Leo Savantt

How extraordinary that the Attorney General takes a view that is in opposition to the European Commission’s, which is that the bill, which in fact could be much higher than 39 billions, only becomes due once the UK has left the EU. Until such time the UK’s liabilities are the normal ones, i.e. the excessive amount already paid into EU coffers by HMG.

Chester Draws
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Chester Draws

And if the UK doesn’t pay, they’ll do what?Illegal means squat if there is no form of enforcement.

Also, even you think the UK has to pay, there’s no need for it to be immediately.

Pat
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Pat

Since the money is detailed in the withdrawal agreement, and bearing in mind that it was Chrystal clear that said WA needs to pass Parliament, then unless Parliament changes its mind neither the cash nor anything else in the WA can be legally enforced.
We are in a similar position to a company whose negotiating team have reached a provisional agreement which senior management won’t sign off.
Quite apart from the fact that the WA itself makes plain that much else needs to be agreed.

starfish
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starfish

Right

So we can see the AG’s legal advice on this issue but cannot see it on the WA?

How convenient

swannypol
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swannypol

I think this is a case of selective quoting. What Cox appears to have said was that it would be illegal to link it to a trade deal (looks a bit like a bribe, no?), not that it would be illegal not to pay it.
Plus also lawyer, so find me a solid argument to not pay this is the next instruction.

David Murphy
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David Murphy

1). All our payments to the EU are based on the treaties we signed up to, 2). The A50 explicitly says all treaties end for us the day we leave. 3). Thus all financial obligations end with A50 completion. As far as i know nothing in the EU’s treaties allow for continued payment after eating the EU. What happened was the EU never believed anyone would invoke A50 so there is very little explicit about anything and clearly they never thought through all the consequences if someone iff invoke A50. His rational for saying the linking the bribe to the… Read more »