Boris Johnson has said he will be forced to write a letter asking Brussels for an extension to Article 50 should he fail to secure a fresh deal, according to details contained in court documents.
The Government’s submission to the Scottish Court of Session has made clear the Prime Minister will obey the law and ask to extend the Brexit deadline.
This is despite Mr Johnson repeatedly stating he would he will not submit to what he describes as the “Surrender Act”, insisting he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than asking for an extension.
The details emerged as part of a court hearing where a Scottish judge is being asked to decide whether Mr Johnson could be imprisoned if he refuses to obey the law in the event his attempts to secure a Brexit deal fail.
In his own name
Aidan O’Neill QC, who is acting on behalf of the group, told the court that the Government’s submission to the court states the Prime Minister “will send a letter in the form set out in the schedule by no later than 19 October 2019”.
It adds that Mr Johnson “is subject to the public law principle that he cannot frustrate its purpose or the purpose of its principles”.
“Thus he cannot act so as to prevent the letter requesting the specified extension in the Act from being sent.”
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Maugham said: “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.
“Those are statements that he’s made to the court. The court has said that in those circumstances its contempt jurisdiction might be engaged.
He added that the hearing was now about whether the claimants can push the court to “clearly engage its contempt jurisdiction”.
Avoid an extension
The group is trying to ensure Mr Johnson will not try to thwart the law as he has intimated most recently in the House of Commons on Thursday.
Responding to a question in the chamber on his latest Brexit proposals, the Prime Minister stated: “I can certainly confirm to my honourable friend that we will be leaving on 31 October, deal or no deal.”
Downing Street officials have repeatedly said that while Mr Johnson will obey the law, he will not be asking Brussels for an extension if he does not clinch a Brexit deal despite the legislation.
Earlier on Friday, Home Office minister Brandon Lewis confirmed the Government had a plan to avoid agreeing to an extension, saying: “There are so many people who are determined to frustrate Brexit, we’re not going to tell them what our plan is.”
Number 10 said it could not comment on an ongoing court case.