Geoffrey Cox QC, the Attorney General, the kind of man you expect to be playing a barrister on an ITV4 drama, is no stranger to great political theatre. He shot to national prominence with a rousing speech at Tory Conference last October when, in the style of a mildly sedated Brian Blessed, he delivered the following quote from Milton:
Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant Nation rousing herself like a strong man after sleep, and shaking her invincible locks:
Methinks I see her as an Eagle mewing her mighty youth, and kindling her undazl’d eyes at the full midday beam.
John Milton, who Cox is so fond of quoting, died of gout in 1674. If the frustration with Brexit is driving you to the red wine of an evening, please take it easy for your own sake. It’s going to be a little while yet before this all blows over…
Cox has become a trusted voice amongst Brexiteers and Remainers alike. He is trying to improve the Prime Minister’s hand in relation to the dreaded ‘backstop’. It has seemed unsolvable so far and the ERG hate it, but Cox is wily and well-respected – his aspirations on this issue are high. But what he has set out to achieve is a fudge of the highest order in Brussels and everyone knows it, before he has presented anything to Parliament it is being described as the‘Cox Codpiece’. The Malthouse Compromise, now dead, has a rather elegant name in that light.
Brexit Central, the pro-Brexit website run by Vote Leave campaigners Matthew Eliot and Jonathan Isaby, has done a relatively exhaustive piece on what we might expect the Attorney General to return with. It is Brexiteers who will provide the ballast to Mrs May’s deal, and indeed Government over the coming months? They outline 6 potential options: treaty change, a new protocol, an ‘interpretive instrument’, an amendment to the political declaration, a Council conclusion including ‘assurances’ and no EU change but Cox changes his advice anyway.
All of these options are either unachievable with the EU or likely to be inadequate in assuaging the fears of MPs relating to the backstop. An interpretative instrument is probably the best he can do, setting legal intentions, but doth butter no Brexiteer parsnips really. Expect the Tory whips office to be in overdrive and Geoffrey Cox to be in full flow in the coming week.