Judge Rules Out No-Deal Brexit Court Move

They argued that statements made by the government showed that it could not be trusted.

Boris Johnson wearing a white hat
The petitioners had argued that a series of public statements by the prime minster indicated that he was planning to break the law by refusing to ask for an extension.

Campaigners had wanted to ensure that the prime minister would write to the EU to request an extension if no deal is in place by 19 October.

But Lord Pentland said there could be “no doubt” that the prime minister had agreed to abide by the law.

As a result, he said there was no need for “coercive orders” against the UK government or against the prime minister.

And he said it would be “destructive of one of the core principles of constitutional propriety and of the mutual trust that is the bedrock of the relationship between the court and the Crown” if Mr Johnson reneged on his assurances to the court.

What was the case about?

Boris Johnson
Mr Johnson has said he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than ask for a delay.

he Scottish legal action was initiated by businessman Dale Vince, QC Jo Maugham and SNP MP Joanna Cherry.

They wanted the Court of Session, Scotland’s highest court, to rule on the extent to which Mr Johnson was bound by the so-called Benn Act.

The legislation was passed by MPs with the intention of preventing the UK leaving the European Union without a deal on 31 October.

It requires the prime minister to send a letter to the EU formally requesting an extension to the Brexit timetable if no deal is signed off by Parliament by 19 October – unless MPs agree to a no-deal Brexit.

However, government papers submitted to the court said that Mr Johnson would send a letter to the EU if a deal was not agreed by the deadline.

What did the court decide?

In his ruling, Lord Pentland said the UK government had accepted it must “comply fully” with the act and would not seek to “frustrate its purpose”.

As a result, he said there was “no proper basis” on which the court could decide that the government would fail to deliver on that undertaking.

The judge ruled that the UK government’s public statements were an expression of its “political policy” and were “clearly not intended to be taken as conclusive statements of the government’s understanding of its legal obligations”.

Lord Pentland said the prime minister and the government had given “unequivocal assurances” to comply with the 2019 Act.

As a result, he was “not persuaded that it was necessary for the court to grant the orders sought or any variant of them”.

What happens next?

Boris Johnson
“I very much hope the court is right and that the government will – as the government has promised to do – abide by the law,” Mr Maugham said.

Those behind the petition said they would appeal against the ruling. It is thought that the appeal could be heard on Tuesday.

Jo Maugham QC said the decision had left Mr Johnson with “wriggle room”.

“I very much hope the court is right and that the government will – as the government has promised to do – abide by the law,” Mr Maugham said.

“But there is very real doubt in my mind that the government will act in accordance with the law and so tomorrow we will pursue our appeal against the decision of the Outer House to the Inner House of the Court of Session, Scotland’s highest court.”

Timeline: What’s happened with the EU letter case?


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