Justice Secretary Robert Buckland is faced with calls to resign over government plans to override international law after another senior lawyer, Lord Keen, resigned instead of continuing to support the controversial policy.
Downing Street confirmed Keen & # 39; s departure as Advocate General for Scotland. In his letter of resignation, he said it had "become more and more difficult to reconcile my obligations as a lawyer with your political intentions".
It came a week after the government's chief legal officer, Jonathan Jones, stepped down – and turned the spotlight on Buckland, who is also Lord Chancellor, and Attorney General Suella Braverman.
A senior Tory source near Keen said he offered to resign after bumping into Braverman during a private discussion Tuesday night over the domestic market bill.
The guard revealed last week that a rift had emerged between the two after Keen said he believed the government's attempt to override the EU withdrawal treaty would break the ministers' ministerial code. Braverman and Michael Ellis, the Attorney General, insisted that the Ministerial Code only covered violations of British law.
Buckland was pressured on Wednesday to resign rather than support laws giving ministers the power to circumvent the withdrawal agreement – an international treaty. He said he would only do so if the law had been "violated in a way that cannot be tampered with." He told Sky News the government was not at this stage yet.
Dominic Grieve, a former Conservative attorney general, called on both Buckland and Braverman to resign rather than support laws that violate international law.
Grieve told the Guardian: “The attorney general appears to be an ardent supporter of this completely skewed view of international law. She and Ellis do not appear to have set any legal precedents for their comments on (violation) of international law in their (advice to the government).
"I'm afraid I think the position of the Lord Chancellor is even clearer. He takes an oath of office to uphold or protect the rule of law. Rule of law encompasses international law.
“While I have some compassion for ex-co-workers because of the position they have been transferred to, I find (Buckland )’s position untenable. I'm afraid he should have resigned on the day the bill was published. He may have decided to stay and try to moderate (the government's position). I can understand this from a moral point of view, but I think that's wrong. "
Conservative former Attorney General Lord Garnier praised Keen for his honorable practice and urged Braverman, Ellis and Buckland to review their positions.
"I asked why the judicial officers are still in office," he told the Guardian. “Richard Keen fought very hard to get the government to act. It was an unequal fight. I salute him for what he tried. He has now done the right thing by resigning. I hope that Richard Keen's resignation will lead the AG (Attorney General), the Attorney General and the Lord Chancellor to scrutinize their positions very carefully. "
Joanna Cherry, a senior lawyer and justice spokeswoman for the Scottish National Party in Westminster, said Keen had finally done the right thing by stepping down, but the six Scottish Tories who voted for the action earlier this week are facing new questions.
"No Scottish judicial officer could possibly reconcile Boris Johnson and his government's lack of consideration for the rule of law with his duty as an officer in the Scottish courts," she said.
“It shows once again that this Tory government cannot be trusted. And Douglas Ross and the six spineless Scottish Tory MPs who voted for the bill are completely exposed and in an absolutely untenable position. "
Ross, the new leader of the Tories in Scotland, had previously attempted to distance himself from Downing Street and had resigned as minister during the summer to protest Dominic Cummings' lockdown drive to Durham.
The Attorney General, Lord Falconer, said: “The Lord Chancellor is a decent person and a good lawyer. Lord Keen and Jonathan Jones, both serious lawyers, have left. The Lord Chancellor cannot stay and expect to be seen as a serious lawyer. "
Keen & # 39; s resignation followed an irritable exchange with Falconer on the legislation in which Keen suggested that Northern Irish Secretary Brandon Lewis "answered the wrong question" when he said the bill was against the law.
Lewis flatly disagreed, telling MPs on the Northern Ireland Committee on Wednesday: "I spoke to Lord Keen when he was looking at the specific question I was asked last week. He agreed that the answer I had was correct. This answer I gave reflects the legal advice given by the government. "
No 10 sources suggested Keen had been close to resigning for several days and said he hadn't spoken to the prime minister on Wednesday.
His departure took place despite Downing Street Reach agreement with conservative rebels who refused to endorse the Single Markets Act in its second reading on Monday – and the Prime Minister insisted he was just taking a "belt and brackets" approach to Brexit negotiations.
The Guardian understands that Keen previously told friends he would stay to "stabilize the ship." An ally said, "He seems to have done that."
Lady Chakrabarti, the former attorney general in the shadows who faced Keen across from the shipping box in the House of Lords, said, “All true Conservatives will search their souls today. The governments of both sides have violated national and international law in this century. sometimes disastrous.
“But never before have they bragged about it in advance. There aren't enough police officers on the planet to enforce the rule of law by force. If so, who would protect us from them and their paymasters? This is not conservatism in action, it is something much more terrifying. It has raised its head before in Europe and it doesn't end well. "
Video: Gove on Brexit: "We work within the rule of law" (Sky News)
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