Legal move against PM
Johnson agrees to ask for Brexit delay after latest court action
Joanna Cherry: ‘gulf of truth’ (pic: Terry Murden)
Boris Johnson has agreed to send a letter to the EU asking for a Brexit delay if no deal is agreed by 19 October.
His willingness to comply with the Benn Act emerged in papers submitted to the Court of Session in Scotland as a new action was raised that could see him jailed if he defied the law.
QC for the campaigners, led by the SNP’s Joanna Cherry, said the submission contradicted statements by the prime minister last week in Parliament.
Downing Street was maintaining its line that the UK would still be leaving the EU on 31 October.
The legal action, which is being led by businessman Vince Dale along with Jolyon Maugham QC, will ask Scotland’s highest civil court to mandate Mr Johnson to seek an extension to avoid crashing out of the EU without a deal.
Under the cross-party Benn Act, the UK government must ask for a further extension to Article 50 from the EU by 19 October, unless the House of Commons has concluded a deal with the EU or expressly voted for a no deal exit.
Ms Cherry wants the judges to test the Prime Minister’s threats to defy the law and refuse to seek an extension to avoid a catastrophic no deal Brexit.
Lord Pentland will hear arguments about what the consequences of the Prime Minister not doing this would be, with the petitioners suggesting “penalties including fine and imprisonment” could be applicable.
The Prime Minister has repeatedly said that the UK will leave the EU on 31 October “no ifs, no buts”.
Ms Cherry said: “We are less than 30 days away from the Brexit deadline and the rhetoric and actions of Boris Johnson carry all the hallmarks of a government pushing ahead towards a catastrophic no-deal Brexit – which we know will hit the economy, cost thousands of jobs and harm people’s livelihoods.
Like much of what Boris Johnson says there is a gulf of truth between the obvious facts of the matter and what he and his government have been saying– Joanna Cherry
“Like much of what Boris Johnson says there is a gulf of truth between the obvious facts of the matter and what he and his government have been saying.
“He cannot be trusted, and this court action is about ensuring he abides by the law. If Boris Johnson tries to defy the law and defy both the Holyrood and Westminster Parliaments by crashing out of the EU without a deal – then we are calling on the Scottish Courts to uphold the law.
“Last week, the UK Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Johnson’s attempt to shut down Parliament was unlawful, void and of no effect. He must be reminded that he is not above the law.”
Commenting Jolyon Maugham QC said: “This is a very simple case. Our Supreme Parliament – elected from 46 million – has directed the Prime Minister – elected from 160,000 – to seek an extension. That is the law, and no man or woman is above it.”
Action in the Outer House of the Court of Session in Edinburgh today is the first stage in forcing Boris Johnson to abide by the law.
The case will proceed to the Inner House on Tuesday where the petitioners will request the court use its unique power of ‘nobile officium’ and empower a court official to sign the extension letter if Mr Johnson refuses to do so.
The legal action came ahead of the latest setback to Mr Johnson when former Cabinet minister and Tory leadership contender Rory Stewart announced he was quitting the party and will seek election as Mayor London as an independent.
Mr Stewart was among more than 20 Conservative MPs stripped of the whip after they backed a bid to block a No Deal Brexit.
The former International Development Secretary had contested the leadership when Theresa May was forced to resign earlier this year.
This morning he said on Twitter: ‘”t’s been a great privilege to serve Penrith and The Border for the last ten years, so it is with sadness that I am announcing that I will be standing down at the next election, and that I have also resigned from the Conservative Party.”