LONDON — Boris Johnson’s legal officer for Scotland Richard Keen has resigned.
Keen was reportedly concerned over the government’s insistence that it would break international law by passing legislation that would give it power to over-ride parts of the U.K.’s Withdrawal Agreement with the EU.
On Tuesday, Keen insisted that when Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said last week that the U.K.’s plan would “break international law in a very specific and limited way” he had “answered the wrong question” and claimed that in his view the planned bill was not a breach of international law.
But earlier on Wednesday, Lewis contradicted Keen’s account, saying that he had given a “very straight answer” that was “absolutely in line” with legal advice.
Keen offered his resignation earlier today, a senior government figure said, and several hours before Downing Street confirmed his departure.
The BBC reported that in his resignation letter, Keen said: “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 U.K. Internal Market Bill.”
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “Lord Keen has resigned as advocate general for Scotland. The prime minister thanks him for his service.”
The resignation follows the departure last week of the head of the U.K.’s government legal department, Jonathan Jones. The EU has threatened legal action should the U.K. persist with its plans to implement the Internal Market Bill, which contains provisions to over-ride parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol section of the Brexit deal, in areas relating to state aid and the movement of goods from Northern Ireland to the rest of the U.K. after the end of the post-Brexit transition period.