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Mr Speaker, last night in Strasbourg, the prime minister secured legally binding changes that strengthen and improve the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration. The government laid three new documents reflecting these changes in the House.
Mr Speaker, the legal opinion I have provided to the House today focuses on the first two of these documents, which relate to the functioning of the backstop and the efforts of the parties which will be required to supersede it. Mr Speaker, let me say frankly what, in my opinion, these documents do not do. They are not about a situation where, despite the parties properly fulfilling the duties of good faith and best endeavours, they cannot reach an agreement on a future relationship. Such an event, in my opinion, is highly unlikely to occur, and it is both in the interests of the UK and the EU to agree a future relationship as quickly as possible.
Were such a situation to occur, however, let me make it clear. The legal risk, as I set it out in my letter of the 13th of November, remains unchanged.
However, the matters of law affecting withdrawal can only inform what is essentially a political decision that each of us must make. This is a question, Mr Speaker, not of the lawfulness of the government's action, but of the prudence, as a matter of policy and political judgement, of entering into an international agreement on the terms proposed.