Court delays decision on ordering Boris Johnson to request Brexit extension

Campaigners 'delighted' by court's decision to hear the case again once deadline has passed

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Wednesday 09 October 2019 12:22
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Scotland’s highest civil court has delayed until 21 October its decision on whether to order Boris Johnson to ask for a Brexit extension if he cannot secure a deal.

The decision by the Court of Session in Edinburgh gives the prime minister an opportunity to show whether he will comply with the law requiring him to seek an extension by 19 October.

Scottish National Party MP Joanna Cherry said she was “delighted” by the decision, describing it as “a victory for us and all our supporters”.

Legislation passed by parliament last month - known as the Benn Act - requires the PM to asked for an extension to the Article 50 process of EU withdrawal by 19 October unless he has secured parliamentary approval for a deal with Brussels or a no-deal Brexit.

Government documents submitted to the court last week stated that the PM would comply with the law and ask for an extension, contradicting Mr Johnson’s “do or die” pledge that he will take the UK out of the EU with or without a deal at the end of the month.

But as the PM continued to state in public that he would not sign the extension letter, Ms Cherry, lawyer Jolyon Maugham and businessman Vince Dale petitioned the Court of Session to order him to comply with his legal responsibility.

And they urged the Scottish judges to use a power known as “nobile officium” - which does not exist in the English courts - to appoint an official to issue the letter if the PM refuses to.

In a ruling in the so-called “nob off” case, the judges said that in the 10 remaining days before the extension deadline, “the political debate must be played out in the appropriate forum”.

But they added: “Since the circumstances may change over the next 10 days, and to avoid the petitioners having to raise new proceedings of a similar nature in changed circumstances, the court has continued consideration … until 21 October”.

Ms Cherry said the ruling would “give the PM time to fulfil the promise he made to the court".

Mr Maugham said he was “thrilled” by the decision, adding: “These cases are about keeping the prime minister on the straight and narrow.

“We have extracted from him a promise that he will comply with the law.

“If he breaks that promise, he will face the music - including possible contempt proceedings.

“And the courts are likely to make good any failure on his part, including signing the Benn Act letter.”

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