Prominent figures in the lawyers' campaign to leave the EU today urge politicians to abandon the withdrawal agreement in favour of a no-deal Brexit.

A paper co-authored by Martin Howe QC, Sir Richard Aikens and Thomas Grant, warns that the withdrawal agreement is ‘a legally binding death trap for Brexit’.

‘Avoiding the Trap’, published by thinktank Politeia, argues that the agreement threatens the constitutional independence of the UK and, if implemented, could not be breached without serious consequences. 

It states: ‘If the withdrawal agreement were to come into force, even if the UK would be nominally leaving the EU it would still be subject to all EU laws (including new ones).’

It adds: ‘The withdrawal agreement has uniquely stringent mechanisms for breaches by the UK, which would make the UK subject to financial penalties or even to discriminatory trade sanctions.’

Speaking at the launch of the publication, Howe said: ‘There have been a number of statements made which seem confused by the effects of the withdrawal agreement and the possibility of changing it or renegotiating it. There have been suggestions that don’t seem to be in the real world. Politicians who say we should breach the withdrawal agreement are not putting forward credible options.’

He added: ‘The prime minister is leaving behind what amounts to a political Chernobyl disaster.’

The paper claims that a member state does not need a withdrawal agreement to leave the European Union under Article 50. It argues, therefore, that the future prime minister should focus on the longer term relationship between the UK and the EU.

In the absence of a trade agreement, Howe said the UK should temporarily revert to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. ‘It would not be optimal, but it would be fine,’ he said.

Howe is a barrister who specialises in intellectual property and EU law, while Aikens is a barrister at Brick Court Chambers and former Lord Justice of Appeal. Grant is an international lawyer and senior research fellow at Cambridge University.