PM triumphs in new court case over no-deal Brexit delay row

7 days ago
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Campaigners have had their legal bid to get a judge to force Boris Johnson to delay Brexit to avoid no-deal dismissed.

The prime minister has promised he will comply the so-called “Benn Act” passed against his wishes by MPs last month, which forces him to do so.

But he has also said Brexit will definitely happen on 31 October – not explaining how this is possible given the legislation could compel him to ask for a delay.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 11: Anti-Brexit protesters demonstrate with flags outside the House of Parliament on March 11, 2019 in London, England. Talks between the UK and the EU resume today before MPs in Parliament vote on British Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal tomorrow. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
Image: Brexit is due to happen on 31 October

So campaigners – led by businessman Vince Dale, SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC and Jolyon Maugham QC – launched legal action at the Outer House of the Court of Session.

They wanted a judge to order that Mr Johnson had to send a letter to Brussels asking for the delay.

They also wanted to try and stop the prime minister finding a way around the law, including getting the judge to ban Mr Johnson from asking EU leaders to veto the request.

Their case was dismissed on Monday afternoon.

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Lord Pentland’s judgement said there was “no doubt” Mr Johnson “now accepts that he must comply with the requirements” of the law and confirmed he had given “unequivocal assurances” he would.

He added the campaigners had not proved there was a “reasonable apprehension of breach of statutory duty on the part of the prime minister”.

But he warned that if Mr Johnson did not comply with the law, it could damage the “mutual trust” that exists between the courts and the politicians.

Mr Maugham vowed to appeal the ruling by taking it to the Inner House of the Court of Session tomorrow.

The prime minister insists the country will leave the European Union on October 31.
PM: We will respect the law and leave on October 31

In a hearing last week, it emerged that legal papers lodged by the government contained an assurance he would ask EU leaders to delay Britain’s planned departure if he could not reach a deal.

The government’s legal team argued that this meant the judge didn’t need to pass the law.

But Aidan O’Neill QC, for the petitioners, argued that the prime minister was “not naturally an honest man” and that they had a “reasonable apprehension” that he would not comply with the legislation named after Labour MP Hilary Benn, and so break the law.

House of Commons resumes
Image: The ‘Benn Act’ passed into law against the wishes of Mr Johnson

Earlier today, Mr Johnson said: “We will study any judgements very closely as we always do.

“We will respect the law, and we will leave the EU on 31 October. Clearly that’s what the people of this country voted for.

“I think most people want just to get Brexit done. It’s been going on for a long time now.”

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