A FORMER Taunton student has given an insider's take on Britain's withdrawal from the European Union.

Sir Geoffrey Cox was back at his old school, King's College, to deliver the annual Batten Lecture, named after former headmaster, the late James Batten.

Sir Geoffrey, who was appointed Attorney General in 2018 by Theresa May, offered legal advice to the Government during the Brexit negotiations.

During the lecture, he answered the question, 'Given the political upheavals of the last five years, and the sense of unease about the political scene, is the current party political system fit for purpose?'

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Sir Geoffrey with King's headmaster Richard Biggs.

He gave his account of the “upheavals” themselves – the referendum, the subsequent negotiations with the EU and the involvement, often fractious, of Parliament in scrutinising - and usually rejecting - any proposals that came out of those negotiations.

He gave a frank account of the impasse of 2019, the change of leadership and the resulting General Election, which handed Boris Johnson the majority he needed to push a final deal through.

Sir Geoffrey claimed the ultimate success of the withdrawal process showed the strength, not the weakness, of our political systems.

It is rare, he claimed, that such revolutions are achieved peacefully. Parliament had been stretched and challenged as seldom before, but had remained strong. The will of the people of the UK had been achieved.

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Sir Geoffrey with head girl Anastasia Woodard, headmaster Richard Biggs and head boy Louis Benneyworth.

Sir Geoffrey, who was at King's from 1973 to 1977, spoke for well over an hour in his distinctively rich voice, in exactly the same spot – the school’s theatre – where, many years before, he had performed the lead role in the school production of Coriolanus.

An audience of pupils, staff, parents, past teachers - including a small handful of Sir Geoffrey’s old teachers - and alumni were held spellbound by the lecture, relishing both the style of the delivery and its content.

Here was a picture of a turbulent and important moment in British history, painted in vivid tones by a man who had been at the heart of it all.

The questions from the audience afterwards touched, amongst other matters, on the character of Mr Johnson and his cabinet, and on the complex legal and political manoeuvres behind the brief prorogation of Parliament in September 2019.

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In his vote of thanks, the school’s head boy, Louis Benneyworth, himself a successful debater, commented that he clearly still had a great deal to learn about the art of oratory to achieve the heights that had been reached by Sir Geoffrey last Thursday evening.

It was a special and memorable evening for the school - a rare opportunity to hear a first-hand account, from one if its own community, of turbulent times, and a reassuring message that our systems of governance might be more robust and effective than we had feared.

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Sir Geoffrey, who read law and classics at Cambridge, was called to the bar in 1983, and appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2003.

He was elected to Parliament in 2005, representing Torridge and West Devon, a constituency he still represents.