Jonathan Jones, the Head of the UK government’s legal department has resigned in rejection of plans by 10-Downing Street to undermine parts of the EU withdrawal agreement. The UK government is pushing through legislation that could effectively override the Withdrawal Agreement which was thrashed out with the bloc at the end of last year.
Jone’s resignation brings to six top civil servants that have now stood down this year, including the heads of several departments and the cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill. “This resignation indicates that senior government lawyers think that the government are about to break the law,” according to Lord Charlie Falconer, Labour’s shadow attorney general.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed he will ‘not back down’ but his actions have sparked fury in Brussels. However, Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin warned Boris Johnson against tampering with the Brexit divorce agreement he signed last year, saying doing so would torpedo any trade deal between Britain and the European Union.
“The Withdrawal Agreement is an international treaty, and we expect the U.K. government to implement and to adhere to what was agreed,” Martin said in an interview with the Irish Examiner. Details also indicate that the UK is drawing up new legislation that would dilute the effect of the Withdrawal Agreement on subjects ranging from state aid to customs in Northern Ireland. This decision that risks reopening one of the most controversial disputes in Brexit.
Both Ireland and the EU are opposed to any move that could lead to the reintroduction of checks at the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. U.K. officials say their aim is to prevent any legal confusion.