One of the key players in Britain’s vote to leave the EU referred to the Scottish National Party as a “series of circus acts” when challenged over Brexit law.
Michael Gove was chastised in Parliament yesterday for repeating that Britain cannot revoke Article 50 – a claim he first made last year.
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was talking “palpable nonsense” in the House of Commons, according to QC Jolyon Maugham QC, and has a history of making untrue assumptions and statements about Brexit and Article 50.
Gove lobbed a volley towards SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC when she stood up yesterday to correct Gove on the law around revoking Article 50, during an escalating Commons’ debate on Britain’s future.
The terse subject was opened by Conservative MP Ken Clarke, who asked if the Government could cancel Brexit until there is consensus on what the UK wants.
He asked: “Is it the Government’s position that if the EU refuses an extension, we will revoke Article 50, no doubt with the intention of invoking it later, once Parliament and the Government have decided what it is we are seeking for our future?”
Gove has a history of making categorical statements, which are just wrong.Jolyon Maugham QC
Gove responded with an untrue statement: “We cannot revoke Article 50 and then invoke it again later. The European Court of Justice has made that absolutely clear.”
Joanna Cherry QC challenged Gove.
“The opinion of the [European] Court of Justice does not say that. Given that it is a judgement of the highest court in Europe, how can I put the record straight? The Secretary of State seems to have misunderstood the judgement.”
Fact-Check: What Did the ECJ Ruling Actually Say?
The European Court of Justice ruled on 10 December 2018 that the UK can unilaterally revoke Article 50 in a way that is “unequivocal and unconditional”.
This judgement followed a statement from the EU’s Advocate General in support of that move: “Unilateral revocation would… be a manifestation of the sovereignty of the departing member state, which chooses to reverse its initial decision.”
QC Calls for Press Scrutiny of Gove
Jolyon Maugham QC tweeted yesterday: “Gove has a history of making categorical statements – which are just wrong – about the legal consequences of revoking Article 50.”
Maugham then shared a screenshot of comments Gove had made in the Daily Mail, two days prior to the statement by the EU’s Advocate General.
Gove’s comment in the Mail was shared 1,500 times under a headline that claimed that rejecting May’s deal would mean being “yoked” to the EU forever.
Maugham described Gove’s article as “a categorical, unqualified statement of a proposition that was being tested and which turned out to be false. It tends to show he is indifferent to the truth of what he says”.
Maugham added that it is “a shame journalists never seek to hold him to account.”
For further Brexit scrutiny, follow Byline Times’ investigation “In Contempt: Democracy in Darkness”. Send tips or suggestions to @avwinter firstname.lastname@example.org