BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg exposes Boris’s Brexit plan as PM ready to hit ‘nuclear option’

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The Prime Minister is facing a barrage of attacks over claims his government is planning new legislation which risks overriding parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement.

It was reported the proposed internal market bill – set to come before the Commons tomorrow – could “eliminate the legal force of parts of the withdrawal agreement” in areas such as state aid and Northern Ireland customs.

However, Mr Johnson has stood firm and insisted the UK was committed to the agreement.

But the Prime Minister is facing crisis after six leading civil servants have stepped down from their roles this year.

Today, Sir Jonathan Jones, permanent secretary to the Government Legal Department, announced he is resigning and will leave the role in April.

The Financial Times attributed the decision to “suggestions that Boris Johnson is trying to row back on parts of last year’s Brexit deal relating to Northern Ireland.”

Now, the BBC’s Political Editor, Laura Kuenssberg, has said Mr Jones clashed with the Attorney General and was unhappy with how Number 10 handled the prorogation last year.

Ms Kuenssberg tweeted: “Sources confirm FT reports that top lawyer, Jonathan Jones was unhappy about how far govt plans to push against Withdrawal Agreement in legislation being published tomorrow.

“His view clashed with Attorney General, who took different views – Jones also said to have been unhappy about how No 10 handled prorogation last year and there have been tensions for a while.

“Some in govt acknowledge what they are doing may be seen as ‘nuclear option’ and I’m told the legislation tomorrow likely to include the phrase ‘not withstanding’ – which to many will look like they are trying to cast aside an international treaty.”

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis admitted the proposed plans do break international law.

While speaking to the Commons today, Mr Lewis said: “Yes this does break international law in a very specific and limited way.

“We are taking the power to dis-apply the EU concept of direct effect required by Article 4 in a certain, very tightly defined circumstances.”

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He added that “there are clear precedents for the UK and indeed other countries needing to consider their international obligations as circumstances change”.

Tory MP Tobias Ellwood also expressed his concerns over the proposals and tweeted: “Britain’s soft power and respected voice on the international stage comes from our duty and resolve to defend and uphold international laws.

“This cannot change as we secure Brexit – otherwise out stance in holding China/Russian/Iran etc to account and upgrading the rules-based order is severely weakened.”

Lord Charlie Falconer, Labour’s shadow attorney general, argued Mr Jones’ resignation indicates the government are about to “break the law”.

He said: “This resignation indicates that senior government lawyers think that the government are about to break the law.

“The government is trashing the best of the UK; we are a law abiding country and the government have some serious questions to answer.”

By stepping down, Mr Jones follows the likes of Sir Mark Sedwill, who announced his departure as cabinet secretary earlier this year.

It is believed Mr Sedwill quit the role due to tensions between him and the Prime Minister’s team.

Other civil servants have also stepped down this year.

Jonathan Slater, the chief civil servant at the Department for Education, was sacked last month following the row over exam results across England.

In July, Sir Richard Heaton resigned from his position at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

Sir Philip Rutnam stepped down as permanent secretary of the Home Office back in February.

In June, Sir Simon McDonald also stepped down from his position at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

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