Jonathan Jones quits: Ex-ambassador Darroch ‘not surprised’ as fallout continues

Comments come as government prepares to publish legislation NI secretary Brandon Lewis has said would break international law “in a very specific and limited way"
Photo: Paul Heartfield

By Richard Johnstone

09 Sep 2020

The UK’s former ambassador to the United States and permanent representative to the EU has said he was “not surprised” that the civil service’s top lawyer resigned yesterday over possible changes to the Brexit deal.

Speaking to BBC Newsnight yesterday, Lord Kim Darroch said Jonathan Jones had quit because “we stick by international agreements”.

The Government Legal Department head's departure was confirmed yesterday, with reports saying Jones left because the government was proposing to back out of elements of last year’s Brexit deal relating to Northern Ireland.

That legislation is set to be published today.  Last night Darroch, who resigned as ambassador to the US in December following the leak of diplomatic cables, said that he “wasn't surprised to see a government lawyer resign, because we stick by international agreements it's one of the things that we stand for”.

He added: “We are criticising very strongly the Chinese government for – we believe – breaching the agreement on Hong Kong. So the idea that you could unilaterally rewrite your veto part of the agreement is just unacceptable. It's a breach of international law.”

Jones’s resignation came as the government prepared to publish the UK internal market bill, which it is expected will “eliminate the legal force of parts of the withdrawal agreement” in areas around state aid rules and the Northern Ireland protocol that ensure there will not be a hard border on the island of Ireland .

Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis confirmed to MPs yesterday that the legislation would break international law “in a very specific and limited way". This admission prompted unrest among some Conservative MPs.

It was also reported yesterday that Rowena Collins Rice, director general at the Attorney General's Office, is to leave her post too. It has been reported that Collins Rice's departure is for a a new public appointment, which is set to be announced on Friday.

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