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Geoffrey Cox (British politician)

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Sir Geoffrey Cox
Attorney General for England and Wales
Advocate General for Northern Ireland
In office
9 July 2018 – 13 February 2020
Prime MinisterTheresa May
Boris Johnson
Preceded byJeremy Wright
Succeeded bySuella Braverman
Member of Parliament
for Torridge and West Devon
In office
5 May 2005 – 30 May 2024
Preceded byJohn Burnett
Majority24,992 (41.8%)
Personal details
Charles Geoffrey Cox

(1960-04-30) 30 April 1960 (age 64)
Wroughton, Wiltshire, England
Political partyConservative
Jeanie MacDonald
(m. 1985)
Alma materDowning College, Cambridge

Sir Charles Geoffrey Cox KC[1] (born 30 April 1960) is a British Conservative Party politician and barrister who has been Member of Parliament (MP) for Torridge and West Devon since 2005. Cox worked as a barrister from 1982 onwards and was appointed a Queen's Counsel in 2003, two years before his election to Parliament. He served as Attorney General for England and Wales and Advocate General for Northern Ireland under Theresa May and Boris Johnson from 2018 to 2020.

In January 2023 it was reported that Cox had, since the 2019 general election, earnt more than £2 million in addition to his salary as an MP – the second-highest amount of any MP, with only former Prime Minister Theresa May having earnt more.

Early life and education[edit]

Charles Geoffrey Cox was born on 30 April 1960 in Wroughton, Wiltshire to Michael, a Royal Artillery Officer, and Diane. He was educated at King's College, Taunton, a private school, before studying law and classics at Downing College, Cambridge.[2][3]

Legal career[edit]

Cox was called to the Bar at the Middle Temple in 1982, and started practice as a barrister. In 1992 he co-founded Thomas More Chambers, as its Head of Chambers. He was appointed as a Queen's Counsel in 2003.[4]

For part of his career as a barrister, Cox was Standing Counsel to the government of Mauritius. His cases have included "civil fraud and asset recovery, commercial, human rights, defamation, and judicial review actions". He has appeared as leading counsel in the Supreme Court or the Privy Council, and he was instructed to lead in commercial actions and arbitrations overseas, appearing in the DIFC, Mauritius and the Cayman Islands.[4]

His criminal cases have included the Jubilee line corruption trial and successfully defending a member of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment who had been accused of war crimes related to the death of Baha Mousa.[5]

In 2014, Cox successfully defended the former Premier (and current Speaker of the Legislative Assembly) of the Cayman Islands, McKeeva Bush, on charges of corruption and misuse of office.[6] In March 2015, Cox successfully defended the deputy Editor of The Sun, Geoff Webster, in a trial of four journalists resulting from Operation Elveden.[7] The jury had to decide at what point the behaviour of those on trial could be considered a criminal rather than a serious disciplinary matter; even the lawyers found this difficult to define.[8] Cox subsequently publicly criticised the vagueness of the law, and its disproportionate use that had led to the prosecution.[7]

Parliamentary career[edit]

Cox hosting a lawn meet of the Lamerton Foxhounds, 2014

Cox was first selected to stand for Parliament in 2000 by the Torridge and West Devon Conservatives. In the following 2001 general election, he came second to incumbent Liberal Democrat John Burnett by 1,194 votes.[9][10]

After the 2001 election, Cox was reselected. Burnett announced in 2003 that he would not contest the seat again, and at the 2005 general election Cox defeated the new Liberal Democrat candidate, David Walter, gaining a majority of 3,236.[11] Cox made his maiden speech in the House of Commons on 28 June 2005.

Cox was re-elected as MP for Torridge and West Devon at the 2010 general election with a slightly decreased majority of 2,957 votes (5.4%).[12][13][14]

At the 2015 general election, Cox was re-elected with an increased majority of 18,403 votes (32.5%).[15]

In January 2016, it was reported he had a number of office expense claims for items, such as a 49 pence pint of milk, rejected by the Commons authorities. In response, Cox said that his staff had been unaware of a recent change in the rules for office expenses, which no longer permitted office hospitality items such as tea, coffee or milk to be claimed.[16]

In February 2016, Cox told the House of Commons that he had concluded, after examining the published renegotiation proposals, that the case for leaving the EU was now overwhelming and that he would vote to do so in the forthcoming referendum.[17]

Cox was again re-elected at the snap 2017 election, with his majority increasing to 20,686 (34.7%).[18]

In the House of Commons he has sat on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select committee, the Committee on Standards and the Committee on Privileges.[19] Cox resigned from the latter role in 2016 after registering more than £400,000 of outside earnings within the time limit.[20]

On 9 July 2018, Cox was appointed to the Cabinet as Her Majesty's Attorney General for England and Wales and Advocate General for Northern Ireland.

In the 2019 general election, Cox was re-elected with 60.1% of the vote and a majority of 24,992 (41.8%).[21]

Attorney General[edit]

On 9 July 2018, Theresa May appointed Cox as Attorney General taking over from Jeremy Wright following a Cabinet reshuffle, prompted by the resignations of David Davis and Boris Johnson.

On 1 December 2018, The Sunday Times newspaper reported the leaked contents of a recent letter written by Cox to Cabinet Ministers detailing the Attorney General's legal advice on Theresa May's Brexit deal. The newspaper reported that his legal advice declared the Withdrawal agreement's backstop protocol would mean the UK being indefinitely locked into a customs union with the EU if future negotiations collapse and that the only way the UK could leave the Backstop would be the signing of a future trade deal which could take many years to complete. The former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and three serving Cabinet members confirmed the contents of the letter to the Sunday Times.[22]

In February 2019, Theresa May placed Cox in charge of negotiating changes to the Northern Ireland backstop in the EU withdrawal agreement.[23]

On 24 September 2019, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom ruled unanimously that Prime Minister Boris Johnson's prorogation of parliament was unlawful, overturning the High Court's judgment, given by the Lord Chief Justice, in the government's favour. On the same day, minutes of a conference call between cabinet ministers (which included Cox) were leaked to Sky News. The minutes of the call, which took place after the prorogation had been approved by the Queen, detailed that Cox briefly told the cabinet at that time that in his view the prorogation was lawful and constitutional and that any accusations of unlawfulness "were motivated by political considerations". Cox's full advice to the Government has not been published, as per precedent to protect government legal advice being prone to influence.[24] The next day Cox appeared in the House of Commons to answer an urgent question on the Government's legal advice and on the implications of the Supreme Court's decision. Cox rebutted calls for him to resign and criticisms of the Government's position, stating that senior and distinguished judges had agreed with the Government's view that the issue was not justiciable and chiding MPs for refusing to agree to a means of the UK leaving the EU while repeatedly preventing the House of Commons from dissolving for an election.[25]

In February 2020, Cox said the public is concerned about the creeping "judicialisation of politics" and said people were right to worry that unelected officials were making decisions that ought to be taken by Parliament. He promised there would not be radical reforms. He stated his opposition to the highly politicised US selection process of Supreme Court and suggested he preferred the Canadian system. Cox said that "there's a case for looking at how supreme court judges are appointed... There's a committee of the Canadian parliament that carries out interviews [of candidates]."[26][27]

On 13 February 2020, in a Cabinet reshuffle, Cox was dismissed as Attorney General, at the request of the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and replaced by Suella Braverman.[28]

He was knighted in the 2021 New Year Honours for parliamentary and political service.[29]

In January 2023, Sky News said that Cox had, since the 2019 general election, earnt more than £2 million in addition to his salary as an MP – the second-highest amount of any MP, with only former Prime Minister Theresa May having earnt more.[30]

Other work whilst an MP[edit]

Cox has continued to practise as a King's Counsel (KC) whilst an MP.[4] According to The Daily Telegraph, based on the declarations in the Register of Members' Interests, Cox's extra-parliamentary work was worth £820,867 in 2014, while the total time on extra-parliamentary work that was registered in 2014 (although the register shows the hours were worked over 3 years) was 1,954 hours.[31]

Cox has previously defended his outside work, pointing out that MPs of all parties have practised as KCs over the years, and that the Attorney General and Solicitor General are normally chosen from their ranks.[32] He has argued that he has always been used to long hours, that 70 and 80 hour weeks are normal at the Bar, and that the Nolan report concluded that Parliament needed people with current experience of a wide range of professional and other backgrounds.[32]

In 2016, the House of Commons Standards Committee—of which he was a member—found that he had committed a serious breach of a House of Commons rule, designed to make transparent an MP's financial interests, after failing to register £400k of outside earnings (11 payments) for legal work within the permitted 28-day period. Cox registered the payments late, between two and seven months after the deadline; he said that he had omitted to prioritise the rule in the midst of an intense political and professional schedule. When first registering the payments, in September 2015, Cox apologised to the Registrar for his omission, referring himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner, and stepped down from the committee. The Commissioner and the Committee accepted that the payments had not in fact given rise to any conflicts of interest and that the failure to register the payments within 28 days had thus had no practical effect. Alistair Graham, the former Chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, criticised the lack of punishment and called for a complete reform, while Martin Bell said the Committee on Standards had a long history of inflicting light punishment, which showed that the House was incapable of regulating itself.[33]

On 9 July 2018, Cox gave up all private practice upon his appointment as Attorney General,[34] but resumed sometime after being sacked in February 2020, working as "consultant global counsel" to the international law firm Withers LLP.[35] He earned "£468,000 a year for 48 hours of work per month"[35] including over £150,000 for advising the government of the British Virgin Islands about alleged corruption in a case bought by the Foreign Office.[36] Beginning on 26 April 2021, Cox spent one month in the Caribbean and with the permission of the chief whip, continued to vote in Parliament via proxy due to the coronavirus lockdown.[35]

In January 2023, Sky News said that Cox had, since the 2019 general election, earnt more than £2 million in addition to his salary as an MP – the second-highest amount of any MP, with only former Prime Minister Theresa May having earnt more.[30]

Attorney for suspect in tax fraud case[edit]

On 10 December 2019, Danish media claimed that Cox had earned £380,000 (3.4 million DKK)[37] in legal fees during the years 2015–2017 for representing Sanjay Shah, a Dubai-based British businessman and prime suspect in what is reported to have been the largest tax fraud case Denmark had ever seen.[38] Shah and his legal team said that he only exploited legal loopholes which Denmark had failed to close.[39][40]

Preben Bang Henriksen, chairman of the legal affairs committee of the Danish Parliament, claimed that Cox's engagement for Shah posed a conflict of interest or disqualification issue because the Danish investigation is dependent on British assistance. Henriksen feared that the ties between Shah and Cox "might discourage British authorities from investigating the case as thoroughly as it evidently needed to be".[41] A spokesman for Cox rejected that Cox had influenced the investigation in Britain or Denmark, since a system at the Attorney General office would prevent conflicts of interest because Cox would not take part in any decisions within cases where he had previously been involved as a lawyer.[37]

Personal life[edit]

Cox lives in rural West Devon, near Tavistock, and London. As with the majority of MPs who do not represent a constituency close to Parliament, he maintains accommodation on expenses in London for when he is working there.[42] He married Jeanie MacDonald in 1985 and they have one daughter and two sons.[2][43]

Tax avoidance allegations[edit]

In September 2014, it was reported that Cox was one of a number of individuals investing in the Phoenix Film Partners LLC scheme run by Ingenious PLC which HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) had alleged to be a tax avoidance scheme. Ingenious has contested the allegation and claimed the scheme had been submitted to HMRC for pre-approval and that HMRC had not raised any objections. Cox has said that if the scheme was a tax avoidance scheme, it would have contradicted his instructions to his financial advisers, that he did not wish to be involved in aggressive tax avoidance.[44] Following a string of court victories against the schemes, HMRC has since sought to settle disputes with those involved in the tax avoidance, with an agreed re-payment package. In January 2016 Ingenious PLC was reported to still be disputing the claims.[45]


  1. ^ "No. 59418". The London Gazette. 13 May 2010. p. 8741.
  2. ^ a b Cox, Rt Hon. (Charles) Geoffrey. UK Who's Who. 2007. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U2000219. ISBN 978-0-19-954088-4. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  3. ^ Zeffman, Henry (13 March 2019). "Geoffrey Cox profile: from back benches to eye of the storm". The Times. London.(subscription required)
  4. ^ a b c "Thomas More Chambers: Geoffrey Cox QC". Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  5. ^ Williams, A.T. (18 October 2012). A Very British Killing. Jonathan Cape. p. 200. ISBN 978-0224096881.
  6. ^ Whittaker, James (10 October 2014). "Courtroom theater draws crowds". Cayman Compass. Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  7. ^ a b "Sun journalist's lawyer queries use of 'vague' law". BBC News. 21 March 2015. Retrieved 13 April 2015.
  8. ^ O'Carroll, Lisa (20 March 2015). "Acquittal of four senior Sun journalists seen as blow to CPS". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 13 April 2015.
  9. ^ "One change in Devon political map". BBC News. 6 May 2005. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  10. ^ "Devon West & Torridge". BBC News. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  11. ^ "Result: Devon West & Torridge". BBC News. 6 May 2005. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  12. ^ "Election Data 2010". Electoral Calculus. Archived from the original on 26 July 2013. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  13. ^ "Statement of Persons Nominated and Notice of Poll: Torridge and West Devon" (PDF). West Devon Borough Council. 20 April 2010. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  14. ^ "Election 2010 – Devon West & Torridge". BBC News.
  15. ^ "Devon West & Torridge". BBC News. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  16. ^ McSmith, Andy (14 January 2016). "Geoffrey Cox: Tory MP has expenses claim for 49p pint of milk rejected by Commons". The Independent. London. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  17. ^ "EU Renegotiation". Personal website. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  18. ^ "Devon West & Torridge". BBC News. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  19. ^ "Geoffrey Cox". Parliament UK. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  20. ^ Malnick, Edward; Newell, Claire (9 March 2016). "MPs must no longer police themselves, says sleaze watchdog Lord Bew". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  21. ^ "Statement of Persons Nominated" (PDF).
  22. ^ Shipman, Tim (2 December 2018). "Revealed: Brexit legal advice could sink Theresa May". The Sunday Times. London.
  23. ^ Watt, Nicholas (28 February 2019). "May's fate in the hands of the 'showman'". BBC News. Retrieved 6 March 2019.
  24. ^ "Exclusive: PM was advised by attorney general suspension was 'lawful'". Sky News. Retrieved 24 September 2019.
  25. ^ Letts, Quentin (26 September 2019). "Quentin Letts sketch: Verbal barrage aims straight for the rump". Archived from the original on 26 September 2019. Retrieved 9 July 2021.
  26. ^ "Geoffrey Cox signals he would accept lead role in review of judiciary". The Guardian. 12 February 2020.
  27. ^ "Concerns about judges' powers must be heeded, says Attorney General". BBC News. 12 February 2020.
  28. ^ "Boris Johnson fires attorney general Geoffrey Cox in cabinet reshuffle". The Independent. 13 February 2020. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  29. ^ "No. 63218". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2020. p. N2.
  30. ^ a b "EXCLUSIVE: The Westminster Accounts". Sky News. 8 January 2023. Retrieved 12 January 2023.
  31. ^ Telford, Lyndsey; Heighton, Luke (22 February 2015). "The MPs who topped up their salaries with £1,600-an-hour second jobs". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  32. ^ a b Cox, Geoffrey (4 June 2013). "Experience of world of work must not be lost in Commons". Western Morning News. Plymouth. Retrieved 13 April 2015.
  33. ^ Hughes, Laura (4 February 2016). "Tory MP Geoffrey Cox will only have to apologise after failing to declare hundreds of thousands of pounds". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  34. ^ "New Attorney General appointed". Government website. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  35. ^ a b c Sommerlad, Joe (11 November 2021). "How Geoffrey Cox became embroiled in the Westminster sleaze scandal". The Independent. Retrieved 17 November 2021.
  36. ^ Weaver, Matthew (9 November 2021). "Raab defends Geoffrey Cox for working from Caribbean in lockdown". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 November 2021.
  37. ^ a b Lambek, Bjørn; Ussing, Jakob; Fastrup, Niels (10 December 2019). "Portræt: Kulørt topadvokat og politiker har forbindelser til Shah" [Portrait: Colourful top lawyer and politician has ties to Sanjay Shah]. Danish Broadcasting Corporation (in Danish). Copenhagen. Retrieved 10 December 2019.
  38. ^ W., Christian (21 August 2018). "Tax authority gunning for British connection in fraud case". The Copenhagen Post. Copenhagen. Retrieved 10 December 2019.[dead link]
  39. ^ Gadd, Stephen (21 May 2019). "Accused British fraudster maintains he was merely playing the game according to the rules". The Copenhagen Post. Copenhagen. Retrieved 10 December 2019.
  40. ^ Gadd, Stephen (6 May 2019). "Missing billions a headache for Danish tax authority". The Copenhagen Post. Copenhagen. Retrieved 10 December 2019.
  41. ^ Lambek, Bjørn; Ussing, Jakob; Fastrup, Niels (10 December 2019). "Britisk toppolitiker tjente millioner som rådgiver for Sanjay Shah" [British top politician earned millions as a legal adviser for Sanjay Shah]. Danish Broadcasting Corporation (in Danish). Copenhagen. Retrieved 10 December 2019.
  42. ^ "IPSA record". IPSA. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  43. ^ "About Geoffrey". Personal website. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  44. ^ Greenwell, Faye (17 September 2014). "HMRC probes company in which MP Geoffrey Cox invested". North Devon Journal. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
  45. ^ "HMRC offers film partnerships an end to tax saga". Financial Times. London. 15 January 2016. Archived from the original on 11 December 2022. Retrieved 9 September 2018.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Torridge and West Devon
Political offices
Preceded by Attorney General for England and Wales
Succeeded by
Advocate General for Northern Ireland