'He'll be out in five minutes': Queen will fire Boris Johnson if he refuses to seek Brexit extension, former attorney general says

Dominic Grieve predicts civil service will refuse to work with prime minister and lord chanellor will resign if Johnson defies the law

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Monday 30 September 2019 12:48
Comments
Conservative MP Dominic Grieve says PM could be 'dismissed' by the Queen

The Queen would dismiss Boris Johnson as prime minister if he refused to comply with a law requiring him to seek an extension to Brexit talks, leading Remainer Dominic Grieve has said.

The former attorney general said the PM would be “out in five minutes” if he tried to defy a Supreme Court order to go to Brussels.

Mr Grieve said he expected current attorney Geoffrey Cox and lord chancellor Robert Buckland would resign, while the civil service would withdraw co-operation with a prime minister openly flouting the law in this way.

A cross-party group of anti-no deal MPs passed legislation known as the Benn Act, earlier this month,which requires Mr Johnson to seek an extension to the Article 50 Brexit extension, delaying the date of withdrawal to the end of January, if he has not secured parliamentary approval for a deal or a no-deal outcome by 19 October.

Mr Johnson has branded the legislation a “surrender act” and insists that despite its provisions he will not ask Brussels for an extention beyond the scheduled Brexit date of 31 October.

But Mr Grieve said that would lead to an instant legal challenge which would reach the Supreme Court within days, where judges would issue a rarely-used order known as “mandamus” requiring a public official to carry out a non-discretionary responsibility.

“He would be taken to court and a writ of mandamus would be issued against him and he would be told that he had, as a matter of law, to write the letter,” Mr Grieve told Sky News.

“I suspect the courts could deal with it very quickly.”

Mr Grieve added: “At that stage, the cabinet secretary and civil service will refuse to work for him. I assume the attorney general and lord chancellor would have resigned, because it is such a flagrant breach of the law.”

Even though Mr Cox has been a vocal supporter of Mr Johnson’s approach to Brexit, Mr Grieve said he was “a good enough lawyer to know you can’t support a prime minister who is breaking the law of the land”.

Pressed on whether Mr Johnson would face further legal action if he refused to comply with the court order, Mr Grieve said: “There is no question of putting the prime minister on trial.

“The Supreme Court - Her Majesty’s judges - telling the prime minister that as a matter of law he has to do something? He will be gone in five minutes. He will be dismissed.”

Asked if it was the Queen who would dismiss Mr Johnson in these circumstances, Mr Grieve replied simply: “Yes.”

The former attorney general insisted that it was a “hypothetical position”, but added: “If he intends to continue behaving in this completely ludicrous fashion, yes, perhaps.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in