David Cameron”s agreement with the EU is not a done deal and could be overturned by the European Court of Justice, Michael Gove has warned.
The Justice Secretary, a close friend of the Prime Minister, said it was important people understood that until there was a treaty change setting out the new deal for the UK it was not guaranteed.
Mr Cameron has repeatedly stressed the agreement is legally binding and said that it could only be overturned by all 28 of the EU states – including the UK.
However, Mr Gove, who is backing the campaign for the UK to leave the EU, said: “The facts are that the European Court of Justice is not bound by this agreement until treaties are changed and we don”t know when that will be.”
He told the BBC: “I do think it”s important that people also realise that the European Court of Justice stands above every nation state, an ultimately it will decide on the basis of the treaties and this deal is not yet in the treaties.”
Downing Street said: “It”s not true that this deal is not legally binding.
“Britain”s new settlement in the EU has legal force and is an irreversible International Law Decision that requires the European Court of Justice to take it into account.”
Mr Gove said his time in government has left him “convinced” that the UK would be better off if it left the European Union.
Mr Gove said he had thought “long and hard” during the Prime Minister”s reform negotiations before deciding that “ultimately, we need to take back control”.
He said: “During my time as a minister, I”ve seen all sorts of decisions taken by European politicians and European judges that I can”t change and that people in this country can”t influence and I think if politicians are to be trusted and if our political system is to work we need to take back control of those decisions.”
The former education secretary said it had been “incredibly difficult” to tell his friend and ally Mr Cameron that he would be joining Boris Johnson and five other Cabinet ministers backing the Leave campaign.
He said: “He”s been very generous in allowing me to outline what I believe.
“Before I entered politics I was sceptical about the European Union. As a result of being in office I”ve become convinced that we would be better off out.”
The Justice Secretary”s wife, the journalist Sarah Vine, has said Mr Cameron was “shocked and hurt” when Mr Gove revealed his decision.
Ms Vine wrote in her column she had never known her husband to change his mind, adding: “Baroness Thatcher herself could rise from her grave to tell him to get back in his box, and still he wouldn”t.”
The columnist also described the dinner at Marina Wheeler and Boris Johnson”s home that she and her husband were photographed leaving last week, as “surreal”.