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Amal Clooney has resigned as a UK special envoy in protest at what she calls a “lamentable” plan to “violate an international treaty signed by the Prime Minister less than a year ago”.
The world-renowned human rights lawyer attacked the government over its Internal Market bill, which will unpick parts of the Brexit divorce deal signed with the EU.
She said she was “disappointed” to have to resign because she had “always been proud of the UK’s reputation as a champion of the international legal order, and of the culture of fair play for which it is known”.
But her role with the Foreign Office as special envoy on media freedom “has now become untenable” as she feels she can no longer “urge other states to respect and enforce international obligations while the UK declares that it does not intend to do so itself”.
Ms Clooney said the clauses in the Internal Market bill “threatens to embolden autocratic regimes that violate international law with devastating consequences all over the world”.
The government says the controversial legislation, which is currently making its passage through Parliament, will override sections of the Withdrawal Agreement to protect trade with Northern Ireland.
But it has been widely-criticised, including by senior figures in the Conservative Party, after minister Brandon Lewis confirmed it would breach international law “in a limited and specific way”.
In a letter to foreign secretary Dominic Raab, Ms Clooney wrote: “My role was intended to help promote action that governments could take to ensure that existing international obligations relating to media freedom are enforced in accordance with international law.
“I accepted the role because I believe in the importance of the cause, and appreciate the significant role that the UK has played and can continue to play in promoting the international legal order.
“In these circumstances I have been dismayed to learn that the Government intends to pass legislation – the Internal Market Bill – which would, by the Government’s own admission, ‘break international law’ if enacted.”
She added: “I was also concerned to note the position taken by the Government that although it is an ‘established principle of international law that a state is obliged to discharge its treaty obligations in good faith’, the UK’s ‘Parliament is sovereign as a matter of domestic law and can pass legislation which is in breach of the UK’s Treaty obligations’.
“Although the government has suggested that the violation of international law would be ‘specific and limited’, it is lamentable for the UK to be speaking of its intention to violate an international treaty signed by the Prime Minister less than a year ago.
“Out of respect for the professional working relationship I have developed with you and your senior colleagues working on human rights, I deferred writing this letter until I had had a chance to discuss this matter with you directly.
“But having now done so and received no assurance that any change of position is imminent, I have no alternative but to resign from my position.”