Amal Clooney quits UK special envoy role over Brexit plan

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Amal Clooney has quit her role as the United Kingdom’s (UK) special envoy on media freedom in response to the British Government suggesting it could break international law if a trade deal with the European Union (EU) is not reached.

In a letter to British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, the human rights lawyer said she was quitting her role over the Government’s “lamentable” suggestion.

Ms Clooney said she was “dismayed” to learn that the Government intended to pass legislation that would effectively override sections of the Brexit withdrawal agreement that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had himself negotiated.

The Internal Market Bill, which is currently being debated by British politicians, 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 UK-EU trade agreement is not secured.

Ms Clooney, who married movie star George Clooney in 2014, is the latest lawyer to resign over the planned legislation, and also the highest-profile lawyer to quit.

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.

Britain's Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State Dominic Raab in a suit walking on a street.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab received the letter of resignation.(AFP: Daniel Leal-Olivias)

The British Government argues the move it an insurance policy for a potential “no-deal” scenario.

Mr Johnson has said the legislation was 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 UK — 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.

Ms Clooney said she had accepted the role in April 2019 because she believed “in the importance of the cause”.

“[I] appreciate the significant role that the UK has played and can continue to play in promoting the international legal order,” she said at the time.

She said she had spoken to Mr Raab about her concerns but she had “received no assurance that any change of position is imminent”.

As a result, she said she had “no alternative but to resign”.

AP

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