The UK government’s top lawyer has dropped changes to the Brexit withdrawal agreement

The UK government's top lawyer has dropped changes to the Brexit withdrawal agreement

The head of the UK government’s legal department has dropped a proposal to withdraw parts of last year’s Brexit deal involving Boris Johnson’s Northern Ireland.

Amid growing tensions between the prime minister and staff at the top of the civil service, Jonathan Jones, the government’s treasury solicitor and permanent secretary in the legal department, is the sixth senior official to resign this year.

The attorney general’s fee confirmed Sir Jonathan’s departure but declined to comment further. A spokesman for Mr Johnson said: “We thank him for his long service and wish him well for the future.”

Sir Jonathan did not explain his decision in a short resignation letter posted online. But two officials familiar with the situation told the Financial Times that he was stepping down due to a dispute with Downing Street over plans to challenge parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement.

People close to Sir Jonathan said they were unhappy with the decision to rewrite parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which is part of the 2019 withdrawal agreement, with new powers in the UK’s internal market bill.

A source familiar with the events surrounding Sir Jonathan’s decision to resign said tensions had been running high for months over the Brexit talks and legal differences with Attorney General Suela Brewerman.

Mr Braverman’s appointment came after the former attorney-general, J. F. Free Cox, fired Mr Johnson in February, an insider described as “uncomfortable voices” about the importance of following international law.

Mr Jonathan is believed to be dissatisfied with the initial interpretation of the legal implications of the no-deal Brexit by Ms Braverman, and at the request of government law officials – Ms Braverman, Solicitor General Michael Ellis and Justice Secretary Robert Buckland.

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Two people familiar with the discussions said questions were raised about whether the government’s plan to override the Brexit withdrawal agreement was in violation of the ministry code, which forces ministers to abide by the law, including international law.

In this event, Downing Street, M.S. Deciding to accept Brewerman’s advice, the law officers’ advice was shared.

The government is believed to have been given external advice which determined the government, when it deems fit to be legally free locally, would be in breach of international obligations if it becomes law in violation of the withdrawal agreement.

“Jonathan was one of the good men,” said one person familiar with the internal discussions. “He’s a man of tremendous integrity.”

No. 10 insisted that the new powers were “limited” and needed clarification of the protocol signed and signed by Mr Johnson in October last year.

The Internal Markets Bill will give UK ministers the power to interpret the protocol of the Northern Ireland Protocol. But Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, is expected to insist at the Brexit talks in London on Tuesday that the UK should fully implement the protocol.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote on Twitter: “I trust the British government to implement the withdrawal agreement, the obligation under international law and the prerequisites for future partnership.

“Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland is essential to safeguarding peace and stability on a market island and integrity.”

Former Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday criticized the government for its proposals in the House of Commons. “How can the government assure future international partners that it can be trusted to abide by the legal obligations of the agreements entered into by the UK?” She said.

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Sir Jonathan became head of the government’s legal department in 2014, having previously served as legal adviser and lawyer for the Home Office Fees, the Attorney General’s Office Fees, and the Department of Education. He is also a barrister.

Sir Jonathan’s farewell is as follows Exit Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill, Simon MacDonald from Foreign Office Fees, Philip Rutnam from Home Office Fees, Richard Heaton from the Department of Justice and Jonathan Slater from the Department of Education.

Dave Penman, head of the FDA union representing senior civil servants, said Sir Jonathan’s departure was an “extraordinary decision in principle” that “represents the very best values ​​of fair and professional civil service.”

He said that like ministers, civil servants have a duty to uphold the rule of law: the ministerial code and the civil service code are not clear on both. “So, the government’s most senior legal adviser has decided he will resign on the issue unless he has no choice but to consider it probably a conflict with his own and the cabinet’s responsibilities, both to act within spirit and letter, which is more extraordinary. . Law. “

Shadow Attorney-General Charlie Faulkner said that if Sir Jonathan felt the need to resign, “something very bad about this government should rot.”

“The resignation suggests that senior government prosecutors believe the government is going to break the law.” “The government is taking the UK’s best approach: we are a law-abiding country and the government has some serious questions to answer.”

Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s chief adviser, wants civil servants to take more responsibility when policies go awry, but the failure of any minister during the coronavirus crisis increases stress. Mr Cummings has promised a radical overhaul of the civil service, promising “heavy rains” in the Whitehall.

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