Gove says EU deal “not legally binding”


EU reforms “not legally binding” – Michael Gove

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Mr Gove sees a vote to leave the EU as a chance for the UK to “recover its mojo”

David Cameron”s EU reforms are not legally binding and could be overturned by European judges, Justice Secretary Michael Gove has told the BBC.

Mr Gove – one of five cabinet ministers campaigning for the UK to quit the EU – told the BBC the European Court of Justice was “not bound” by the PM”s agreement until treaties are changed.

The PM has said the package is “already legally binding and irreversible”.

It could only be overturned by all EU states including the UK, he says.

People in the UK will vote on whether to remain a member of the EU on 23 June.

The reform deal paving the way for the referendum promises changes to the EU”s binding treaties in two areas – exemption for the UK from an “ever-closer union” and protection for countries not using the euro.

Mr Gove, a close friend of the PM, told BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg “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 said Mr Cameron was “absolutely right that this is a deal between 28 nations all of whom believe it”, adding: “But the whole point about the European Court of Justice is that it stands above the nation states.”

Mr Cameron has “not been misleading anyone”, Mr Gove went on, but he added: “I do think it”s important that people also realise that the European Court of Justice stands above every nation state, and ultimately it will decide on the basis of the treaties and this deal is not yet in the treaties.”

On Monday, Mr Cameron told MPs: “The reforms that we have secured will be legally binding in international law, and will be deposited as a treaty at the United Nations.

“They cannot be unpicked without the agreement of Britain and every other EU country.”

The package also includes a reduction in the amount of child benefit EU migrants can claim for children living overseas, and an “emergency brake” on their in-work benefits.

“Recover its mojo”

A “red card” system allowing national parliaments to club together against unwanted EU legislation was also agreed.

Ministers who want to quit the EU have been allowed special dispensation to oppose the government at the referendum, although strict rules have been put in place for the campaign.

In the BBC interview, his first since deciding to oppose Mr Cameron in the referendum, Mr Gove also said a vote to leave the EU would offer “a tremendous opportunity for Britain to recover its mojo”, calling the union an “old-fashioned model”.

“Pillar of security”

Elsewhere in the EU referendum debate, 13 senior military officers have signed a letter to the Daily Telegraph saying being in the EU “helps us to safeguard our people, our prosperity and our way of life”.

The signatories include Field Marshal Lord Bramall, a Normandy veteran and former chief of the defence staff, and Lord Dannatt, who was chief of the defence staff until 2009.

The letter says Nato is “the most important alliance for maintaining Britain”s national security”, but adds that EU membership is another “increasingly important pillar of our security”.