Katy Balls

Top government lawyer quits ahead of internal market bill

Top government lawyer quits ahead of internal market bill
Jonathan Jones QC (photo: Gov.uk)
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After reports emerged on Monday suggesting that Boris Johnson plans to use new legislation to override key parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement relating to the Northern Ireland protocol, government ministers sought to play down the changes. Environment Secretary George Eustice suggested that any changes to be laid out in the internal market bill were aimed at simply tying up loose ends.

The text of the bill is not due to be published until Wednesday. However, all the signs are that it will be controversial. The head of the UK’s government legal department, Jonathan Jones, has today stepped down. The Financial Times reports that those close to him say he was 'very unhappy' about the decision to overwrite parts of the Northern Ireland protocol. With no public statement and no bill to examine, it's too early to draw definitive conclusions.

However, given that No. 10 has been at pains to play down reports of abandoning the withdrawal agreement – insisting any new powers will be 'limited', this is not a particularly promising sign. There are senior Tories who are keen to back the government yet are very uncomfortable with the idea of unilaterally going back on an international treaty. They will be looking for reassurances from the Prime Minister. 

Written byKaty Balls

Katy Balls is The Spectator's deputy political editor.

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