On 15th September 2020 Lord Lexden asked the Government “what role the Law Officers have in ensuring that the rule of law is maintained in (1) the development of domestic legislation and (2) their policies relating to the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from and future relationship with the European Union.” The Bishop of Carlisle, Rt Revd James Newcome, asked a follow-up question:
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the Government recognise that any attempt unilaterally to modify the terms of the withdrawal agreement would adversely affect not only future trade partners but also the confidence that EU citizens resident in this country will place in the commitments that the United Kingdom has made under the agreement? The confidence of British citizens resident in EU countries would also be damaged if they saw that treaty commitments could simply be set aside. Can he offer any reassurance in either regard?
Lord Keen of Elie (Con): My Lords, I would offer absolute reassurance with respect to the points that have been raised. First, there seems to be a common misconception that somehow we could unilaterally alter the treaty provisions. That is simply not possible and is not being attempted. What we are addressing are circumstances in which, in the face of a material breach or fundamental changes in our obligations due to the conduct of the other party, we need to take preventive measures to maintain the paramount intent of the Northern Ireland protocol, which is the integrity of the Belfast agreement.