European Union demands United Kingdom face Brexit 'realism;' Johnson scrambles

Andrew Cummings
October 8, 2019

Lord Pentland was asked to consider the effects of the Benn Act - legislation passed by MPs with the intention of preventing the United Kingdom leaving the European Union (EU) without a deal on October 31.

Lord Pentland said: "Having regard to the Prime Minister's and the Government's unequivocal assurances before the court in the pleadings, in the note of argument and in oral submissions that they will comply with the 2019 Act, I am not persuaded that it is necessary for the court to grant the orders sought or any variant of them".

The Prime Minister has repeatedly said that he will negotiate a new agreement at the meeting of European leaders on 17 and 18 October.

Orders sought by the legal challenge included stopping the Prime Minister from "frustrating" the will of the Act and mandating him to send the request.

The petition, brought at the Outer House of Scotland's highest civil court, sought to ensure the prime minister stuck to the statutory responsibilities laid down by the Benn Act, which was passed by opposition MPs last month in order to prevent the United Kingdom from crashing out of the European Union with no deal.

Some fear Johnson will try to wriggle out of that requirement and have asked Scotland's highest court to order the government to comply.

"The content of the duty imposed on the prime minister and the circumstances in which he becomes liable to fulfil that duty are carefully and precisely spelled out", said the judge, who added that "extra-judicial" remarks could not be taken as "conclusive statements of the government's understanding of its legal obligations".

Businessman Dale Vince, SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC and Jolyon Maugham QC launched the legal action and will now appeal against the judge's decision at the court's inner house, at a hearing expected to take place today.

But if there were a no-deal Brexit, the union says, ministers would have free rein to water down these rights.

The document will detail work done by Holyrood to reduce effects on Scotland if the United Kingdom without a deal.

Mr Swinney called on the UK Government to ensure an exit deal is reached before the deadline.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney is due to make a statement to MSPs in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday at the same time as the release of the report.

"Even at this late stage we urge the UK Government to rule out such a course".

"However hard we work it is impossible to prepare for all the problems a no-deal Brexit would cause".

Ms Cherry said: "We have forced the Tory government to concede that the Prime Minister will comply with the law, and promise to send a letter requesting a Brexit extension and not frustrate the objective of the Benn Act".

"We will be ready for Brexit on October 31 with or without a deal".

A Downing Street spokesman said earlier: 'We will respect the law. "We are also supporting the devolved administrations to get ready for Brexit on October 31 and we have committed nearly £140 million to the Scottish Government to fund their preparations".

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