Legal experts have rubbished the reported new schemes being briefed by the Government as possible loop-holes to avoid their pending legal requirement to extend Article 50.
One scheme, reported in The Telegraph, suggested the Government could send one letter requesting an Article 50 extension, but simultaneously send another letter written to undermine the request.
Commenting, Dominic Grieve MP, former Attorney General and leading supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, said:
“No-one can trust Boris Johnson to be honest on his plans and intentions over Brexit or anything else. Any doubt about this before he became Prime Minister, has been removed by his behaviour since he entered Downing Street.
“Johnson now has a further problem, that this distrust of him is destroying his strategy. All his plans to thwart Parliament, escape accountability and force an undemocratic No Deal on the country are falling apart at the seams.
“His scheme to suspend Parliament has galvanised opponents of a No Deal to pass a law that requires him to prevent a No Deal, while his drive for an election has MPs in declaring there must be no election until an extension of Article 50 has been signed, sealed and delivered.
“Today the Telegraph reports that Johnson’s latest idea is to send the EU two letters, one complying with the law and formally asking for an extension to the Brexit deadline to stop No Deal and another telling them that he really wants them to ignore it.
“The problem with this is that it simply won’t work – as lawyer after lawyer has lined up to say."
Notes to editors
Several legal experts have rubbished the Government’s reported plans:
Joshua Rozenberg, a respected legal commentator and former legal correspondent for the BBC and subsequently legal affairs editor for the Telegraph, states today [https://twitter.com/JoshuaRozenberg/status/1170825746920673280]:
“Another problem with this idea, floated in the @Telegraph, is that the bill says the PM “must seek to obtain … an extension … by sending … a letter”. Sending the required letter with a covering note saying “please ignore the next letter” does not comply with this requirement.”
Charlie Falconer, the former Lord Chancellor, states [https://twitter.com/LordCFalconer/status/1170805259410845696]:
“Statutory Purpose of request letter is to get extension. To seek to destroy statutory purpose is to break law.”
On the Today Programme, retired Supreme Court Justice Lord Sumption stated that the two letters strategy would “of course” be unlawful.
A statement from the chair of the Criminal Bar Association, Caroline Goodwin, stated:
“As the CBA our role is not to say ‘remain’ or ‘leave’ but part of our role is to explain the law - criminal law - and play our part in upholding the rule of law.
“Standing up for the rule of law underpins our civil society - the economy, justice system, societal cohesion.
“In or out the EU, a government that stands up for the rule of law acts in the best interests of the people - parliament included.
“Any government - the executive - which ignores the rule of law and actively seeks to break the law undermines the entire justice system, opens the door wide open to mob rule and very quickly to anarchy.
“How can a government on the one hand pledge to unleash a ‘reign of terror’ on criminals when its own leadership threatens to break the law?
“We cannot expect people not to rob, rape and murder when a government declares it may break the law. We cannot lay waste to the rule of law.”