Advocate general for Scotland resigns ‘over Brexit bill’

The advocate general for Scotland, Lord Keen, has reportedly offered his resignation letter to Boris Johnson.

Advocate general for Scotland resigns ‘over Brexit bill’ Getty Images
Lord Keen: Reportedly tendered resignation to PM (file pic).

The UK Government’s advocate general for Scotland has resigned over the controversial Internal Market Bill, which seeks to override parts of the Brexit withdrawal treaty.

Ministers have admitted the legislation breaks international law by reneging on the deal Boris Johnson struck with Brussels last year in relation to Northern Ireland.

Lord Keen handed in his resignation letter to the Prime Minister earlier on Thursday and Downing Street has now confirmed it has accepted it.

He told the PM he had “found it increasingly difficult to reconcile what I consider to be my obligations as a law officer with your policy intentions” regarding the new Bill.

A No 10 spokesman said: “Lord Keen has resigned as advocate general for Scotland.

“The Prime Minister thanks him for his service.”

Lord Keen had served as advocate general for Scotland since 2015.

“Your government faces challenges on a number of fronts and I fear that the Internal Market Bill in its present form will not make these any easier.”

Lord Keen to Boris Johnson

Tendering his resignation, he wrote to Johnson: “It has been a privilege to serve in your government as advocate general for Scotland and to serve your two predecessors in the same office.

“Over the past week I have found it increasingly difficult to reconcile what I consider to be my obligations as a law officer with your policy intentions with respect to the UKIM (United Kingdom Internal Market) Bill.

“I have endeavoured to identify a respectable argument for the provisions at clauses 42 and 45 of the Bill but it is now clear that this will not meet your policy intentions.

“In these circumstances I consider that it is my duty to tender my resignation from your government.

“Your 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.”

Scottish secretary Alister Jack said: “I would like to pay tribute to Lord Keen for his five years of committed service to the UK Government as advocate general for Scotland. 

“I wish him the very best for the future.”

Lord Keen’s departure comes after Sir Jonathan Jones quit last week as head of the UK Government’s legal department, one of the most senior civil service jobs in the country, following the publication of the Bill.

On Tuesday, Lord Keen was embroiled in a row in the House of Lords over the new legislation.

The senior law officer appeared to suggest to peers that Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis had “answered the wrong question” when he admitted last week the Bill would “break international law in a specific and limited way”.

Shadow attorney general Lord Falconer later accused Keen of having “misled the House of Lords” after his claim was rebuffed by the government and by Lewis personally.

The Scottish Government has separately warned the Bill is a “full-frontal assault on devolution” that gives the UK Government powers to lower standards, veto Holyrood bills and fund projects in devolved areas.

The legislation passed its first Commons hurdle on Monday night, with the Bill passed by 340 votes to 263.