Legal action aimed at forcing PM to send Brexit extension request dismissed

Legal action aimed at forcing the Prime Minister to send a letter requesting a Brexit extension has been dismissed, a court has ruled.

Judge Lord Pentland announced his decision on Monday after considering arguments previously made at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

He cited documents submitted to the Outer House which show Boris Johnson accepts he must send a letter to the EU requesting an extension to Article 50 under the terms of the so-called Benn Act.

The Outer House of the court ruled that the case against the Prime Minister had not been "based on reasonable apprehension of breach of statutory duty".

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.

"I am not satisfied that the petitioners have made out their case based on reasonable apprehension of breach of statutory duty on the part of the Prime Minister."

Businessman Dale Vince, SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC and Jolyon Maugham QC launched the legal action over fears Mr Johnson would attempt to thwart the Act.

The legislation requires the Prime Minister to send a letter to the EU requesting an extension if no withdrawal deal is agreed with Parliament by October 19.

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

Jolyon Maugham QC
Jolyon Maugham QC, one of those behind the legal action, outside the Court of Session in Edinburgh (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Mr Johnson, Downing Street sources and Cabinet ministers have repeatedly asserted the country will leave on October 31 regardless.

However, documents submitted to the court on behalf of the Prime Minister on Friday revealed he accepted he must send the letter under the terms set out in the legislation.

It also shows Number 10 accepts it cannot attempt to "frustrate" it.

Andrew Webster QC, representing the UK Government, argued this should be enough for the court to be satisfied the Mr Johnson would comply with the legislation.

He added that imposing any orders could "ruin" the negotiating strategy with the EU.

Aidan O'Neill QC, representing the petitioners, claimed Mr Johnson's previous statements go against what he has said to the court through the documents.

Lord Pentland
Judge Lord Pentland published his ruling on Monday afternoon (Andrew Milligan/PA)

He referred to promises made by the Prime Minister that he would rather be "dead in a ditch" than send a letter requesting an extension, and that the UK will leave on October 31 "do or die".

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