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Cabinet reshuffle: Attorney General Geoffrey Cox gets the sack

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Barrister resigns ‘at the PM’s request’

Geoffrey Cox QC

Boris Johnson has sacked his Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, as part of a Cabinet reshuffle today.

Taking to Twitter to announce the news, Cox said that he was “leaving the Government at the PM’s request”.

The commercial lawyer became Attorney General in July 2018 under Theresa May and shot to prominence with a barnstorming pro-Brexit speech at Conservative Party conference a few months later.

Cox had been widely tipped for the sack under Johnson, with the Mail Online saying yesterday “there have been reports that Number 10 does not believe Mr Cox is a ‘team player'”.

In his resignation letter today, the Thomas More Chambers barrister said that he would be returning to the back benches (and no doubt his lucrative private practice).

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But Cox used his final day in the job to put the wind up human rights lawyers.

Speaking at the Institute for Government think tank yesterday, Cox complained about the “judicialisation of politics”, arguing that “there are a group of cases where you could argue that the courts have gone into areas that more legitimately would be decided by elected representatives”.

The Johnson administration has promised to set up a Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission to “consider the relationship between Government, Parliament and the courts”. Some lawyers worry that it would try to put the government above the law, although Cox stressed that the idea was for moderate reforms rather than a wholesale attack on judicial review.

Cox, who did not deny rumours that he is in line to run the Commission, also set some hares running on judicial appointments, which is “certainly one area that the Commission will be looking at”.

The outgoing AG stressed that the government had “no desire to see politically appointed judges”, but floated the idea of politicians interviewing candidates for the Supreme Court as takes place in Canada.

“In Canada for appointments for the Supreme Court there is a committee of the Canadian Parliament that will carry out interviews”, Cox said. “In our country it could be a joint committee of the House of Lords and House of Commons operating under clear guidance; there would be rules as to the questions that could be asked. What it would lend is transparency to a position which people have seen has enormous power”.

He added: “Certainly nobody’s talking about politically appointed judges or US-style appointment hearings. The committee I’m speaking of wouldn’t have the power to appoint, it would simply be a question of interviewing — as indeed judges now appear before committees in the House”.

UPDATE: Friday, 14 February: 9:09am

Downing Street has confirmed Suella Braverman, barrister and MP for Fareham, will replace Cox as Attorney General.

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