Lord Keen QC resigns in row over Brexit bill

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By Legal Cheek on

Will Robert Buckland follow?

Lord Keen QC (Credit: Blackstone Chambers)

The government’s law officer for Scotland, Lord Keen QC, has stepped down in protest over Boris Johnson’s controversial Brexit legislation.

The Blackstone Chambers barrister said he had “found it increasingly difficult to reconcile” his obligations as a lawyer with provisions in the Internal Market Bill which, if passed, would give ministers powers to override parts of the 2019 withdrawal agreement.

Lord Keen had previously attempted to defend the bill, claiming Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, had “answered the wrong question” when he suggested in comments to MPs that the bill would break intentional law in a “specific and limited way”.

The top barrister later told the Lords that “the bill does not of itself constitute a breach of international law or of the rule of law”.

But doubling-down on his comments yesterday, Lewis told MPs at the Northern Ireland affairs committee: “I’ve spoken to Lord Keen, when he’s looked at the specific question I was asked last week. He has agreed with me that the answer I gave was correct. That answer I gave reflects the government legal advice.”

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In his resignation letter, Keen said it had been a “privilege” to serve as the government’s top adviser on Scots law but that the “government faces challenges on a number of fronts and I fear that the UKIM Bill in its present form will not make these any easier”.

“In these circumstances I consider that it is my duty to tender my resignation from your government”, Lord Keen added.

The Guardian reports this morning that the Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland, is facing mounting pressure to follow Lord Keen and quit, rather than support the controversial bill. He previously said he would do so only if the law had been breached “in a way that cannot be fudged”.

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