'Foolish': One of the UK's most prominent lawyers says May's Brexit approach is ill-advised and unworkable

Thomas Colson
Theresa May

Carl Court / Getty

LONDON — Sir Paul Jenkins, who was the government's most senior-ranking lawyer until 2014, says Theresa May's Brexit strategy is "foolish" and will be difficult to implement.

May intends to pull Britain out of the EU single market and customs union, as well as the European Court of Justice, when it leaves the EU.

Jenkins served as the Treasury Solicitor, the country's principal legal official, from 2006 until 2014. Speaking to the Observer, he ridiculed the idea that May could break free of EU laws and institutions while maintaining the benefits of the single market.

Never mind Theresa May’s foolish red line; we will have the European Court of Justice in all but name

"If the UK is to be part of something close enough to a customs union or the single market to remove the need for hard borders, it will only work if the rules are identical to the EU’s own internal rules," he said.

He also said that pulling out of the European Court of Justice — which Theresa May described as a "red line" in her negotiation stance — would only be workable if it was replaced by something very similar.

"Not only must they be the same but there must be consistent policing of those rules. If Theresa May’s red line means we cannot be tied to the ECJ, the Brexit treaty will need to provide a parallel policing system.

"That may be a new court but, in reality, any new court will have to follow what the ECJ says about the EU’s own rules, otherwise the new system won’t work. So, never mind Theresa May’s foolish red line; we will have the ECJ in all but name."

The government's approach to negotiations in Brussels remains confused and undecided as cabinet ministers jostle to push through their vision of Brexit. Brexit secretary David Davis is preparing to enter a vital new stage of negotiations in less than two weeks time.

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