The Government is reportedly considering using the supremacy of European law over UK legislation to take Britain out of the EU without a deal.
Downing Street has said Boris Johnson intends to comply with the so-called Benn Act – legislation requiring him to extend the Brexit talks if no exit deal is in place by October 19 – but, in the same instance, take the country out of the bloc by the Halloween deadline.
City AM reported that Mr Johnson could deliver on these two seemingly contradictory promises by pointing to the fact EU law, into which the Article 50 deadline is written, trumps British law in which the Benn Act stands.
It is a matter of fact that international law takes precedencePrime Minister's official spokesman
The report suggests the UK could come out of the European Union without a deal on October 31 if the Government can successfully argue the Article 50 deadline must be respected over the demands of the Opposition MPs to extend negotiations until January.
The newspaper quotes a senior Government source saying: “European law usurps British law. That means the Article 50 deadline trumps the Benn Act.”
The Prime Minister’s spokesman on Friday said it was “a matter of fact that international law takes precedence” over UK statute.
“We are talking about international law because the agreement that Article 50 would be extended until October 31 was made at the level of an international agreement by the former prime minister,” they said.
Number 10 suggested the superiority of EU law would only apply should the 27 member states reject any further extension of the Brexit deadline.
Responding to questions at a briefing with journalists, the spokesman said: “Are you asking me that if the EU refuse an extension then we leave on October 31? Because then the answer is yes – that’s what is stated in international law.”
They added: “We will comply with the law, but we will be leaving on October 31.”
Downing Street also said it did not “recognise” fears flagged by Sir John Major that Boris Johnson could circumvent the Benn Act.
The former Tory prime minister said an Order of Council, issued by ministers in the Privy Council, could avoid having to comply MPs’ demands by suspending its power before the deadline.
A source at Number 10 went further, calling the idea “total cobblers”.