Johnsons Brexit Bulldog

UK Attorney General Suella Braverman supported the Johnson government’s attempt to backpedal on its 2019 withdrawal agreement with the EU.

UK Attorney General Suella Braverman, who took up the office during a Cabinet reshuffle in February, is a hard-line Brexiteer and a vocal defender of executive power and national sovereignty. At a time when cooler heads very much want to see the top government lawyer play the office’s traditional role providing impartial advice on the legality of proposed policies, Braverman has opted instead to act as Johnson’s bulldog on various touchy issues related to EU withdrawal.

Most publicly, she sided with what she sees as rightful parliamentary sovereignty against “chronic and steady encroachment by judges.” Strangely, however, in the two cases she cites—the triggering of Article 50 that started the Brexit countdown in 2017 and the Johnson government’s prorogation of Parliament last year—actually reveal the courts protecting the principle of parliamentary sovereignty against a government attempting to avoid scrutiny. More recently, Braverman has supported the Johnson government’s attempt to backpedal on its 2019 withdrawal agreement with the EU. This comes despite the admission by her colleague Brandon Lewis, secretary of state for Northern Ireland, that “this does breach international law in a specific and limited way.” Any other stand, however, appears to be a peril to one’s career under Johnson. Profound differences between Braverman and Jonathan Jones, the head of the civil service’s legal department, over the attempt to rewrite the Brexit settlement ended last month with him resigning his post.

Three former prime ministers have condemned the proposed Internal Market Law on grounds that it would endanger the UK’s international standing as well as the Good Friday agreement over Northern Ireland. “How can the government reassure future international partners that the UK can be trusted to abide by the legal obligations of the agreements it signs?” Theresa May asked.

President Trump’s Northern Ireland envoy, Mick Mulvaney, has also warned against creating a “hard border by accident,” and leading Democrats—including presidential candidate Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—have cautioned that endangering the Good Friday agreement could put a future trade deal with the UK at risk.