Published On: Sat, Sep 7th, 2019

Boris Johnson warned he could ‘go to prison’ if he refuses to delay Brexit


The former director of Public Prosecutions Lord MacDonald revealed the Prime Minister could face court action after he declared he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than ask the EU to delay leaving past October 31. He told Sky News that “a refusal in the face of that would amount to contempt of court” which could “find that person in prison”. The cross-bencher said this was “not an extreme outcome” as it was “convention” for people who refuse to “purge their contempt” to be sent to prison. 

Former Supreme Court Judge Lord Sumption also told Sky News a judge could make an order demanding that a government official signs off the extension “in place of the Prime Minister”.

But Lord Sumption said civil servants would refuse to co-operate with a Prime Minister who was willfully breaking the law.

He said: “He won’t get any co-operation, apart from the fanatics around him… the Attorney General won’t sit there quietly while this happens.

“If he was to do something as foolish as [break the law], he would be on his own, maybe accompanied by Dominic Cummings”. 

Saturday’s Daily Telegraph reported that Mr Johnson is prepared to defy parliament’s instruction to request an extension to the Brexit process if he fails to agree a new deal.

The newspaper quoted Johnson as saying he was only bound “in theory” by the new legislation.

The Prime Minister wrote to Tory members on Friday evening, where he told them: “They just passed a law that would force me to beg Brussels for an extension to the Brexit deadline. This is something I will never do.”

The BBC reported earlier today that cross-party MPs, including expelled Conservatives, had sought legal advice and were preparing to go to court “to compel Mr Johnson to seek a delay”.

READ MORE: Top judge warns civil servant can sign off delay without PM’s consent

David Lidington, the de facto deputy prime minister when Theresa May was in Downing Street, said it would set a “dangerous precedent” if Mr Johnson chose to disobey the law.

Mr Johnson reportedly said he would only have to comply with the opposition’s law blocking no-deal “in theory”.

But Mr Lidington, a former Europe minister, told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “It is such a fundamental principle that we are governed by the rule of law that I hope no party would question it.

“Defying any particular law sets a really dangerous precedent.”

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The former Cabinet minister said Mr Johnson had convinced him that he still wanted to strike a deal with the EU.

But on Friday, Mr Johnson told reporters he would not entertain seeking another deadline extension from Brussels, as the incoming law, expected to receive Royal Assent on Monday, requires him to if no agreement is in place by October 19.

When asked if he would obey the new law’s demand for him to write to EU leaders requesting more time, Mr Johnson said: “I will not. I don’t want a delay.”

Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith encouraged Mr Johnson to break the law, saying he would be seen as a Brexit “martyr” if judges opted to put him jail for breaching Parliament’s terms.



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