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by John Johnston and Ailean Beaton
17 September 2020
Lord Keen quits as Scots law adviser over Internal Market Bill

Lord Keen quits as Scots law adviser over Internal Market Bill

The Advocate General for Scotland and justice minister has quit following a row over the UK Government’s plan to breach international law by overriding parts of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

Lord Keen offered his resignation to Prime Minister Boris Johnson following days of confusion over the government’s Internal Market Bill.

He told Johnson that he "found it increasingly difficult to reconcile" his obligations as a law officer with the UK Government's decision to pursue the Bill.

In a statement on Wednesday evening, Downing Street said: "Lord Keen has resigned as Advocate General for Scotland. The Prime Minister thanks him for his service".

In a statement, 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 [UK Internal Market Bill]. 

"I have endeavored to identify a respectable argument for the provisions at clauses 42 to 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."

He added: "Your Government faces challenges on a number of fronts and I fear that [the Bill] in its present form will not make it any easier."

Scotland minister Alister Jack thanked Keen for his commitment over his five years in the role and said: "I wish him the very best for the future.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said that he has "respect" for the decision and added that the Bill will protect 545,000 Scottish jobs. 

The SNP has said Keen's resignation leaves Scottish Conservative MPs "totally exposed and in an utterly untenable position".

Asked during an interview on BBC Good Morning Scotland on Thursday morning who might be in line to replace Keen, Ross declined to name any possible candidates. 

But he said that he could not foresee the UK Government struggling to fill the position.

Keen resigned on Wednesday, shortly before it was revealed the government had partially climbed down in its face off with Tory rebels over its plans to break international law.

An amendment will now be tabled that will require the House of Commons to vote for a motion before the government can use the controversial powers within the Internal Market bill.

The Bill was introduced last week and seeks to lay out how goods and standards will be regulated after the UK leaves the EU Common Market at the end of the year. 

But it is surrounded in controversy because sections of the bill would potentially override previous commitments made by the UK Government in the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

The UK Government has conceded that sections of the bill do "break international law".



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