The Rt Hon the Lord Keen of Elie QC, the advocate general for Scotland has resigned in the row over the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s intention to potentially break international law by overriding the Brexit deal.
Lord Keen of Elie reportedly handed in his resignation earlier on Wednesday, but the Prime Minister appeared to suggest he was trying to convince the peer to stay on in his post, but Downing Street since confirmed that Lord Keen had stepped down, with a spokesperson commenting: “The prime minister thanks him for his service.”
It follows the government’s admission that proposed Brexit legislation would break international law. The UK Internal Market Bill, which became law earlier this week, has been heavily criticised in both Westminster and Brussels. The EU has threatened legal action and said it could impact ongoing trade talks on a future EU-UK relationship.
Guernsey’s Chief Minister Gavin St Pier commented on the resignation:
“The government of Guernsey has had a very strong working relationship with the Rt Hon the Lord Keen of Elie QC for the past several years. He took on the role of UK Minister with responsibility for Crown Dependencies business in Whitehall in 2017. We were extremely fortunate that his background as a lawyer meant he immediately had a clear understanding of our constitutional relationship with the Crown and that he took the UK’s responsibilities to us very seriously. During his time in that post, Lord Keen has taken a close interest in Bailiwick matters, including offering valued support during both the UK’s Brexit process and the Covid-19 pandemic, both of which are ongoing. I am writing to Lord Keen to thank him and to express our regret that he is leaving his post. Of course, Guernsey’s government will continue to work closely with the UK Government and Lord Keen’s successor going forward.
“I share the concerns that have been raised within the UK, EU and further afield, about the potential impacts of the Internal Market Bill which is currently making its way through the UK’s parliament. The legislation and policy objectives are matters for the UK Government, but the threat of the abrogation by the UK of an international treaty obligation is of concern. Any damage to the UK’s international reputation will be felt by the whole of the British family, including the Bailiwick. We will continue to develop our own international identity under the 2008 international identity framework and guard closely against anything which might diminish our reputation as a good neighbour and responsible player on the international field. In addition to the general reputational issues, the UK Government’s introduction of that Bill may also adversely affect the UK-EU future relationship negotiations at a critical stage and the UK’s negotiations with other nations. Guernsey, and the wider Bailiwick, continues to prepare for all possible outcomes of the negotiations between the UK and EU in advance of the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020. The unconventional threat by the UK to abrogate a treaty obligation is also unwelcome, given that our constitutional relationship with the Crown rests on respect for similar conventions.”