Dwindling UK sovereignty may push attorney general to back Brexit

© Francois Lenoir
Britain’s Attorney General Jeremy Wright may vote for a Brexit amid mounting concern that European courts are whittling away the UK’s sovereignty, it has emerged.

Wright, who is Britain’s most senior legal officer, is considering backing the campaign for the UK to leave the EU over concerns that Prime Minister David Cameron’s deal with Brussels will not go far enough. 

The attorney general is one of a group of Cabinet Office ministers who are fearful about the agreement's lack of robustness. He is said to be particularly worried about the growing influence of European courts and the increasing impact of human rights laws. His position is intriguing because his role as attorney general requires him to offer advice to Cameron over the legal impact of any deal secured.

The PM is demanding a number of key reforms as part of the EU deal. Among these are an opt-out clause for Britain that will ensure the UK is never forced to join a European superstate, and the scrapping of legislation that frames the Euro as the bloc’s official currency.

Cameron is also lobbying for the repatriation of powers from Brussels to Britain, which would give the UK’s parliament greater autonomy, while eroding the influence of EU law on domestic affairs. Work has already begun in this regard, and EU officials are reportedly considering the introduction of a “red card” system to empower parliaments to block newly introduced EU directives.

Cameron will also call for structural reforms that would stop Eurozone states from forcing new regulations on the nine other EU member countries such as Britain that do not partake in the single currency. To date, new proposals that would secure protections for the City of London have already been drafted in Paris and Germany.

Speaking to the Telegraph on Sunday, one Cabinet Office minister said Britain's attorney general would vote for a Brexit if he doesn’t feel the agreement Cameron strikes is comprehensive enough. "It is perfectly feasible that this is a legally enforceable agreement but doesn't go far enough. If he [the attorney general] doesn't think it's a good enough deal, he will vote to leave,” he said.

"At the moment he is undecided, he is conscious that this is not the final deal yet and major changes one way or another could swing his decision. He is 50/ 50.

"He also has significant concerns about the influence of the European courts. There is a question of whether Britain needs to pull out of the European Convention on Human Rights entirely."

Wright declined to comment when probed on the issue. His unwillingness to declare his voting intentions mirrors that of Britain’s Justice Secretary Michael Gove and Mayor of London Boris Johnson. While Gove is unsure about which way to vote, Johnson said on Saturday he will “come off the fence with deafening éclat” when Cameron’s negotiations are complete.

Cameron will announce plans to scrap the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights after the finalized EU agreement is published. However, Wright is reportedly worried that the bill may not be tough enough to thwart the influence of European courts in Britain.

Earlier this month, Gove said that the new bill will still be “subject to the primacy of European law.” Wright had previously said that Britain might have to abandon the European Convention on Human Rights if the government fails to secure significant concessions from Brussels.

Europe’s worsening refugee crisis will dominate discussions at an EU summit scheduled to begin on Thursday. German Chancellor Angela Merkel faces particular pressure to strike a deal with Turkey to take in a greater number of Syrians in the EU.

Five leading Cabinet ministers are preparing to back the out campaign, including Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, Commons leader Chris Grayling and Employment Minister Priti Patel. Euroskeptic Cabinet ministers have grown frustrated in recent times at Cameron’s refusal to allow them to air their views ahead of Britain’s in/out EU referendum.

Downing Street has explicitly warned ministers they must wait until a special Cabinet Office meeting to speak out against the government’s pro-EU stance. However, Euroskeptics say they are prepared to ignore Cameron’s order to remain silent if an emergency Cabinet meeting is not called a day after this week’s EU summit comes to a close.