Lord Keen: Who is the legal adviser to the government that resigned because of an ‘illegal’ Brexit bill?



Scotland’s top government lawyer resigned today amid reports he was unhappy with plans to override the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

Lord Keen of Elie QC, the Advocate General, tendered his resignation this morning, which has since been accepted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Who is Lord Keen of Elie QC?

Appointed Advocate General for Scotland in May 2015, Richard Keen QC also became the Department of Justice Affairs Spokesperson in the House of Lords in July 2016.

Lord Keen studied law at the University of Edinburgh before becoming one of Scotland’s top lawyers – his tenacity in court has earned him the nickname ‘Rottweiler’.

READ MORE: Scotland’s Advocate General Lord Keen resigns amid commercial bill chaos

He was elected Dean of the Faculty of Lawyers – Head of the Scottish Bar – in 2007.

He remained there until January 2014, when he resigned to become Chairman of the Scottish Conservative Party and succeeded MP David Mundell in that role.

Subsequently, he was appointed Advocate General for Scotland in May 2015 and served as Home Office spokesperson from April to July 2016.

In the role of Advocate General, Lord Keen acted as one of the officers of the Crown, whose responsibilities included advising the government on Scottish law.

The Advocate General is to review all bills in the Scottish Parliament as they progress, consult with relevant UK government departments and assess their legislative competence.

READ MORE: Lord Keen ‘had no news’ from PM after offering his resignation

Why did Lord Keen QC resign?

Lord Keen was reportedly deeply unhappy after ministers admitted that the UK’s internal market provisions would violate international law.

In a letter to the Prime Minister he wrote: “It has been a privilege to serve in your government as the Advocate General of Scotland and to serve your two predecessors in the same office.

“Over the past week, I have found it increasingly difficult to reconcile what I consider to be my obligations as a lawyer with your political intentions regarding the UKIM bill.

“I have tried to identify a respectable argument for the provisions of clauses 42 to 45 of the bill, but it is now clear that this will not meet your political intentions.

READ MORE: PM accepts Scottish Advocate General Lord Keen’s resignation

“In these circumstances, I consider it my duty to resign from your government.

“Your government faces challenges on several fronts and I fear that the UKIM Bill in its current form will not facilitate these.

“I wish you good luck in dealing with these issues.”

The government has already seen the departure of the head of the government’s legal department, Sir Jonathan Jones, who resigned last week when the bill was announced.

Lord Keen’s decision to offer his resignation may heighten the concerns of top Tories dismayed that the UK may renege on its international treaty obligations.

However, reports indicate that No. 10 struck a deal with Tory rebels threatening to try to change legislation in the Commons next week.


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