David Cameron's EU reforms are not legally binding, Michael Gove says

The Justice Secretary says the European Court of Justice did not have to follow the plans

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David Cameron’s EU renegotiation is not legally binding because it has not been enshrined in European treaties, the Justice Secretary has said.

Michael Gove, the government head of the British legal system, said he believed the agreement was “an improvement on the status quo” and that Mr Cameron had negotiated in good faith.

But he said the European Court of Justice could overrule the deal – potentially setting himself on a collision course with the Prime Minister.

“The European Court of Justice interprets the European Union treaties and until this agreement is embodied in Treaty change then the European Court of Justice is not bound by this agreement,” he told the BBC.

“What David Cameron has got is an agreement amongst 28 nation states. It’s an international law declaration. 

“I don’t for a moment discount that – but ultimately, it is a matter of EU law and British law that only treaties have effect and that because these agreements that have been reached are not yet treaty change the ECJ could take a different view.

“I can only state what the facts are, and the facts are the ECJ is not bound by this agreement until treaties are agreed.”

Mr Gove, who is campaigning for Brexit, added that as an international law declaration the deal has “legal force in specific areas”.

He stopped short of directly criticising Mr Cameron directly and said the Prime Minister had not been “misleading” by repeating the claims about “legal force” despite the alleged lack of binding powers.

Downing Street says the deal has “legal force” and David Cameron says it will be deposited at the United Nations.

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve, a pro-EU Conservative, dismissed Mr Gove’s suggestion.

“I suggest Michael Gove should consult his own departmental lawyers who may be able to enlighten him,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Mr Cameron’s deal includes provisions to cut EU regulations, exempt Britain from “ever closer union”, and single market protections for countries outside the euro.

The PM has also a negotiated a temporary power to reduce EU in-work migrant benefits for a limited period of time – though less than the four year ban he had originally proposed.

Eurosceptics have criticised the deal as “thin gruel” and “watered down” and polls suggest a large majority of the public believe the plan is a “bad deal for Britain”.

Boris mumbles 'rubbish' as Cameron answers his EU question

This weekend the Prime Minister announced that Britain would hold and in-out referendum on membership of the European Union on the 23 June.

Mr Cameron has allowed Conservative ministers to campaign on opposite sides of the referendum, reflecting the deep split in the Conservative party on the issue.