Amal Clooney has become the highest profile lawyer to quit an official job over her opposition to the British government’s suggestion that it could break international law in the event it fails to agree a trade deal with the European Union.
In a letter Friday to British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, the human rights lawyer said she is quitting her role as the U.K.'s special envoy on media freedom over the government’s “lamentable” suggestion.
She said she was “dismayed” to learn that the government intends to pass legislation that would effectively override sections of the Brexit withdrawal agreement that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had himself negotiated.
“Although the government has suggested that the violation of international law would be `specific and limited', it is lamentable for the U.K. to be speaking of its intention to violate an international treaty signed by the Prime Minister less than a year ago,” she said in her letter.
The Internal Market Bill, which is currently being debated by British lawmakers, has led to a furious outcry within the EU as it would diminish the bloc’s previously agreed oversight of trade between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland if a U.K.-EU trade agreement isn’t secured.
Clooney, who married movie star George Clooney in 2014, becomes the latest lawyer to resign over the planned legislation. Richard Keen, the British government’s law officer for Scotland, and the head of its legal department, Jonathan Jones, have also quit in the past couple of weeks.
The British government has admitted that the legislation could potentially break international law, but argues that it’s an insurance policy for that potential `no-deal' scenario. Johnson has said the legislation is needed to end EU threats to impose a “blockade” in the Irish Sea that the prime minister asserted could “carve up our country.”
One major element of the Brexit withdrawal agreement is the section related to ensuring an open border on the island of Ireland to protect the peace process in Northern Ireland. The EU wanted assurances the border would not be used as a back route for unlicensed goods arriving in Ireland from the rest of the U.K. – England, Scotland and Wales. As a result, the two sides agreed there would be some kind of regulatory border between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland, an agreement that the planned legislation could breach.
Clooney said she had accepted the role in April 2019 because she believed “in the importance of the cause, and appreciate the significant role that the U.K. has played and can continue to play in promoting the international legal order.”
Clooney said she had spoken to Raab about her concerns but that she had “received no assurance that any change of position is imminent.”
As a result, she said she had “no alternative but to resign.”
Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.