Conservative grandees call on Justice Secretary Robert Buckland to resign over Prime Minister’s threat to break international law

Two Tory grandees today called on Justice Secretary Robert Buckland to “fall on his sword” and resign over Boris Johnson’s threat to break international law.

Senior MP Sir Roger Gale told LBC: “I would expect the Justice Secretary, under these terms, to fall on his sword.”

He went on: “One of the Government’s senior legal advisers (lawyer Jonathan Jones) has already done.”

It comes amid a searing row over the Internal Markets Bill, which would override parts of the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement with the European Union. Sir Roger called the Bill “unacceptable internationally”.

Robert Buckland (Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

Former solicitor general Lord Garnier said the Government’s law officers, including Mr Buckland, should ask themselves some “very deep questions” over their position after ministers admitted the Internal Markets Bill will breach international law.

“This breaches the rule of law, the job of the law officers amongst many other things is to maintain the rule of law in

government — to make sure that ministers behave by it,” he told the BBC’s Today programme.

“And if they insist in not doing so then one’s advice would conflict with the client’s instructions and you would have to go…I think the law officers need to ask themselves some very deep questions.”

Britain’s closest ally in the European Union today heaped more pressure on Mr Johnson to back away from breaching international law by reneging on the deal he struck with the EU.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte appealed in his country’s Parliament: “I call on the British to continue to act in the spirit of the Withdrawal Agreement, which is legally binding, and to do nothing to contradict it.”

The clear disapproval from one of the UK’s staunchest friends in past disputes within the EU came before a showdown meeting between Cabinet minister Michael Gove and European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic.

The pair were holding one-on-one talks in private before leading formal discussions between working groups in an effort to overcome the row over Britain’s new Bill.

This would over-ride parts of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA), which has the status of a treaty in international law, dealing with trade between Northern Ireland and the mainland.

Michel Barnier leaves his hotel in Westminster on Thursday (PA)

Cabinet sources were insisting ahead of the talks that the UK was taking “limited and reasonable steps to create a safety net that removes ambiguity” in the WA.

But threats of Tory rebellions in both the Lords and Commons were stepped up. Paul Goodman, the former Tory MP who edits ConservativeHome, wrote that he sensed there would be trouble in both Houses.

Mr Johnson, he said, was “vulnerable to a pincer movement from his Left and Right at once; the Left saying that the Withdrawal Agreement must be honoured; the Right arguing that it must be abandoned”.

The Irish premier said that trust had been “eroded” in recent days.

Michael Martin said he had expressed “outright opposition” to Mr Johnson’s tactics in a phone call. “I made it very clear to him in no uncertain terms our outright opposition to the decision that he and his government took yesterday, and the unilateral nature of the British Government’s decision to break an international treaty.”

(AFP via Getty Images)

Later this afternoon, the final day of this week’s eighth round of post-Brexit talks on a possible deal covering trade and future relations will get under way between UK negotiator Lord Frost and his counterpart Michel Barnier.

But the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, warned there was “absolutely no chance” of Congress passing a US-UK trade deal if the Northern Ireland peace process was “imperilled”.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said she was “very concerned” by the new Bill and the Commission’s chief spokesman, Eric Mamer, tweeted last night: “The EU seeks clarifications from the UK on the full and timely implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer warned Mr Johnson: “If you fail to get a deal, Prime Minister, you own that failure.”


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