So Much for Neutrality! Britain's Euro Court Judge Blasts Ministers' 'Brexit Chaos'

Daily Mail (London), November 24, 2017 | Go to article overview

So Much for Neutrality! Britain's Euro Court Judge Blasts Ministers' 'Brexit Chaos'


Byline: Mario Ledwith Brussels Correspondent

A BRITISH judge used a meeting with Irish diplomats to savage the Government's approach to Brexit negotiations, a leaked report has revealed.

The confidential remarks by Ian Forrester QC were featured in a document that provides a damning assessment of ministers who he accused of having no 'grasp' of the complexities involved in the split with Brussels.

The judge, who has been Britain's representative to the European Court of Justice for two years, earmarked 'issues around the quality of politicians in Westminster' as one of the biggest threats to talks.

The views, contained in a report compiled by Ireland's department of foreign affairs, will infuriate Downing Street.

Ending the jurisdiction of the Luxembourg court in the UK is also one of Theresa May's negotiating 'red lines'.

In comments that one MP branded 'absurd', the judge said he hoped that it 'would gradually dawn on people what leaving actually entailed'.

The leak also showed his desire to see a situation whereby voters decided 'that this was just a great mistake and the mood might swing back to remaining'. During the discussions with unnamed Irish officials, Judge Forrester boasted of having a 'fair amount' of contact with the Government.

However, he added: 'Only one person out of all those who had been in contact had any real grasp of the complexities involved [in leaving the EU].' His decision to tell diplomats of his desire for Article 50 to be reversed could land him in trouble with authorities. Though his comments were made in confidence, a code of conduct for members of the ECJ states that they should act with 'complete independence and integrity, without taking account of any personal or national interest'.

Issues surrounding a Brexit deal are likely to be indirectly dealt with by the court. The judge is due to step down in August 2019, only several months after Brexit is due to take place.

Questions will be raised about the timing and provenance of the leaked paper from Dublin, which has recently threatened to veto Brexit trade talks in a push for concessions from Mrs May.

The document was drafted using reports obtained from Irish embassies between November 6 and 10.

Doubts over Brexit Secretary David Davis's negotiating nous were raised after he barely mentioned negotiations during a key meeting with French officials.

The approach is said to have 'surprised' French ministers who were expecting him to seek a breakthrough during the meeting on October 23.

A Czech minister also derided Boris Johnson as 'unimpressive' after his visit there in September, only giving the Foreign Secretary credit because he 'avoided any gaffes'.

Latvian officials quoted in the document, which was leaked to Irish broadcaster RTE, said 'the biggest problem [for talks] is the chaotic situation in the UK Government'. …

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