Top Tory legal official resigns over Brexit law-breaking

PUBLISHED: 15:08 16 September 2020 | UPDATED: 17:47 16 September 2020

Advocate General for Scotland, Lord Keen QC, arrives at the Supreme Court, London; Aaron Chown

Advocate General for Scotland, Lord Keen QC, arrives at the Supreme Court, London; Aaron Chown

PA Archive/PA Images

Another top Tory legal official has resigned over Boris Johnson’s Brexit bill.

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Lord Richard Keen, who is the Tory advocate general for Scotland, said he had handed in his resignation Wednesday morning.

Speaking to the Scottish paper the Press and Journal, he said: “I tendered my resignation to the prime minister first thing this morning, I’ve not yet heard back from the prime minister.”

Asked if he could be persuaded to stay, he replied: “I tendered my resignation to the prime minister first thing this morning, I really can’t say any more.”

It had been suggested earlier that Downing Street was trying to persuade the senior legal officer not to quit.

Boris Johnson, speaking at the liaison committee, was unable to say whether he was or was not a peer still in his government.

Hours later a Downing Street spokesman announced: “Lord Keen has resigned as advocate general for Scotland.

“The prime minister thanks him for his service.”

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It comes after Lord Keen told peers that the UK Internal Market Bill does not “constitute a breach of international law or of the rule of law”.

He said Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis had “answered the wrong question” when he said that the move to override key parts of the Brexit divorce deal would break international law in a “specific and limited way”.

However, giving evidence to the Commons Northern Ireland Committee, Lewis said he stood by his original answer.

“I gave a very straight answer to Parliament last week in line with the attorney general’s position,” he said.

“I have spoken to Lord Keen. He has looked at the specific question I was asked last week. He has agreed with me that the answer I gave was correct to the question I was given.”

The Guardian claims Lord Keen had previously told friends he was staying to “steady the ship”. One source said: “That’s what he seems to have been doing.”

The paper also revealed last week that Keen had warned that tearing up aspects of the Withdrawal Agreement would breach the ministerial code – a view rejected by the attorney general, Suella Braverman.

“It is his opinion that [the ministerial code] includes the obligation under international law to act in good faith with respect to the UK’s treaty obligations,” an official paper leaked to the Guardian said.

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