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Tue, 29 September 2020

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Scottish Law Officer Lord Keen Has Resigned Over Boris Johnson’s Brexit Plan

Scottish Law Officer Lord Keen Has Resigned Over Boris Johnson’s Brexit Plan

Lord Keen has reportedly offered his resignation to the Prime Minister

3 min read

The Scottish advocate general and justice minister has quit following a row over the government’s plan to breach international law by overriding parts of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

The government's top adviser on Scots law had offered his resignation to Boris Johnson following days of confusion over the government’s Internal Market Bill.

In a statement on Wednesday, Downing Street said: "Lord Keen has resigned as Advocate General for Scotland. The Prime Minister thanks him for his service".

The move came shortly before it was revealed the government had partially climbed down in its face off with Tory rebels over its plans to break international law.

An amendment will now be tabled that will require the House of Commons to vote for a motion before the government can use the controversial powers within the Internal Market bill. 

In the letter, Lord Keen made clear that his resignation was in direct response to the Prime Minister's Brexit policy.

It comes after Lord Keen suggested earlier this week that Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis had “answered the wrong question” when he admitted the bill would break international law in a “specific and limited way”,

And he told peers the legislation, which allows ministers to override the Northern Ireland protocol, did not “of itself constitute a breach of international law or of the rule of law”.

But Mr Lewis rejected the comments on Wednesday, telling the Commons Northern Ireland select committee that he had given a “very straight answer”.

“I’ve spoken to Lord Keen, when he’s looked at the specific question I was asked last week,” he told MPs.

“He has agreed with me that the answer I gave was correct. That answer I gave reflects the government legal advice.”

He added: “I read out something very specific because I wanted to ensure that what I said, to make sure that I was giving the House a straight answer.”

BBC Scotland had reported earlier that Lord Keen had offered his resignation to the Prime Minister, but that efforts were being made to persuade him to stay.

Speaking at the Commons Liason committee earlier today, Mr Johnson had said in response to questions about his position that "conservations on that matter are still continuing".

But Labour’s shadow attorney general Lord Falconer said the senior law officer's authority was already “totally shot.”

Meanwhile, SNP MP and QC Joanna Cherry said the UK government would “find it hard” to replace him.

“I imagine the UK Government will find it hard to find any member of the Scottish Bar to replace Lord Keen as Advocate General for as long as the Tories are intent on breaking international law.”

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