In a resignation letter sent Friday, Amal Clooney criticizes Prime Minister Boris Johnson's threat to disregard part of the U.K.'s "divorce" agreement from the EU

By Peter Mikelbank and Phil Boucher
September 18, 2020 03:57 PM
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Amal Clooney has quit her role as Britain's special envoy for media freedom over the the country's exit from the European Union, better known as Brexit.

In a letter sent out on Friday afternoon and obtained by PEOPLE, the human rights activist criticizes what she called Prime Minister Boris Johnson's threat to selectively disregard part of the U.K.'s "divorce" deal from the European Union, known as the Withdrawal Agreement, which took effect on Jan. 31.

The proposed U.K. government action, which is currently being debated by Parliament, would allow the Johnson government to unilaterally reinstate a hard border between Northern Ireland (which is part of the U.K.) and southern Ireland — something that directly contradicts the withdrawal agreement and risks the hard-won peace on the island of Ireland.

"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," Clooney, 42, wrote in her resignation letter to British Foreign Secretary Dominic Rabb.

"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."

According to The New York Times, a Johnson spokesman disputed the possibility of a border being restored in Ireland and the government has reportedly suggested it would reverse part of its prior agreement only if it felt the European Union has not acting in "good faith."

Clooney was appointed to the prestigious government role in February 2019. She has since spoken passionately about the need to protect "honest journalists," repeatedly taking aim at President Donald Trump for the influence his words have had on the ability of reporters to operate in hazardous regions of the globe.

“Some of the language used about journalists by authoritarian leaders is inspired by the language that came from the US president,” she said in a February 2020 interview with The Guardian.

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In her resignation letter, sent from her Doughty Street offices in London, Clooney expressed dismay at how Johnson's intention to willingly flout international law would now make this important work "untenable."

"I have 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," Clooney — who recently donated $100,000 to victims of the Beirut explosion with husband George Clooney — wrote. "However, very sadly, it has now become untenable for me, as Special Envoy, to urge other states to respect and enforce international obligations while the UK declares that it does not intend to do so itself.

"As the President of the Bar Council of England and Wales has affirmed, undermining the rule of law that ‘this country is built on … will fatally puncture people’s faith in our justice system’. And it threatens to embolden autocratic regimes that violate international law with devastating consequences all over the world."

Clooney's remarks follow the intervention of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who recently criticized the effect that the U.K. government legislation would have on the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which secured peace in Northern Ireland after decades of turmoil.

"We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit," Biden tweeted. "Any trade deal between the U.S. and U.K. must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period."