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Prime Minister will ask for Brexit delay if no deal reached – court document

The submission to the Court of Session in Edinburgh accepts that Boris Johnson will ask for an extension despite his pledge not to delay Brexit.

The Prime Minister accepts the terms of the Benn Act (PA)
The Prime Minister accepts the terms of the Benn Act (PA)

By David Hughes and Conor Riordan, PA

Boris Johnson’s Government will ask for a Brexit delay if he fails to get a deal with Brussels despite his “do or die” promise to get the UK out of the European Union on October 31, documents disclosed in court have revealed.

The Prime Minister accepts the terms of the Benn Act, which requires him to seek an extension if a deal has not been agreed with the EU by October 19, according to a submission to Scotland’s highest court.

Downing Street refused to comment after the documents were read out during the case at the Court of Session.

The Prime Minister has publicly said “we will obey the law, and will come out on October 31″ in any event, without specifying how he would achieve the apparently contradictory goals – fuelling speculation that he had identified a loophole to get around the Benn Act.

The legal action – led by businessman Vince Dale, SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC and Jolyon Maugham QC – is asking the court to require Mr Johnson to seek an extension to avoid leaving the EU without a deal.

Mr Maugham told Sky News: “What we learned today is that the Prime Minister has promised the court, in his own name, that he will ask for an extension under the Benn Act if the conditions are satisfied, in other words if Parliament has not before October 19 agreed a withdrawal agreement.

“He’s also promised the court that he will not frustrate the Benn Act by which is meant that he will not send two letters, one saying ‘can I have an extension’, the other saying ‘please don’t give me one’, he won’t collude with foreign governments to attempt to persuade those foreign governments to veto an extension.”

But he said the Prime Minister’s public comments about committing to the October 31 date meant he was playing “a very odd game”.

“It’s a very difficult game to understand because I think he told the House of Commons yesterday that we would leave come what may on October 31, and I do not understand how that statement can be reconciled with the promises that he’s made to the court today.

“There is no way to square that circle. And he is going to have to come clean either to Parliament or the court.”

Eurosceptic MP Steve Baker – the self-styled “Brexit hardman” – insisted that the Prime Minister would still meet the October 31 date.

Mr Baker, leader of the European Research Group of Brexiteer Tories, told the PA news agency: “A source has confirmed that this just means the Government will obey the law but the source confirmed we will leave on October 31.

“It’s not really a development in the position.”

Asked whether that means leaving without a new Withdrawal Agreement in place, he said: “We’re going to leave with or without a deal come what may.”

But Mr Baker said he did not know what the Government’s plan was to get around the Benn Act if necessary.

PA

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