The UK government’s law officer for Scotland Lord Keen has offered his resignation to the prime minister.
The law officer told journalists: “I tended my resignation to the prime minister first thing this morning, I really can’t say anymore.”
It is understood that the advocate general found it difficult to reconcile government plans to overide the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement with a planned new law.
Lord Keen’s resignation has not yet been accepted by Downing Street and there were attempts being made to keep the lord office in post.
The news comes amid a continuing row over the planned Internal Markets Bill, which Northern Ireland Secretary admitted ot the Commons could “break international law” by overriding the Agreement.
Lord Keen subsequently said in the House of Lords that his view was that “the bill does not of itself constitute a breach of international law or of the rule of law”.
He claimed at the time that Mr Lewis had “essentially answered the wrong question”.
But the Northern Ireland secretary disagreed, saying that his statement was a “very straight answer” which was “absolutely in line” with legal advice.
The Labour Party said that Lord Keen’s authority was now “shot” to pieces following Mr Lewis’s remarks.
Sources said that a frantic Downing Street operation has been launched to persuade the Advocate General to stay in post.
Officials fear no other member of the Faculty of Advocates, the Scottish Bar, can be persuaded to take up the essential post in the UK government.
The SNP’s Joanna Cherry MP, a QC and party spokeswoman on legal matters, tweeted: “One UK Govt Law Officer down. Two to go. I know the English bar shares the commitment to the rule of law of the Scottish Bar so how long can the Solicitor General Mike Ellis and Attorney General Suella Braverman remain in post?”
The row was highlighted at Prime Minister’s Questions when Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael asked about the confused logic of the government.