The battle forBrexitis heading for a nailbiting showdown in the Supreme Court in late October – when the deadline for crashing out of the EU will be just days away – afterBoris Johnson‘s new strategy was revealed.
The “plan B” paves the way for an unprecedented constitutional crisis afterparliament’s deadline for seeking a Brexit delaypasses on 19 October – with thethreat of the prime minister being jailedfor contempt of court.
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With the deadline for crashing out on 31 October, it will be a race against time to force Mr Johnson to Brussels before Halloween , or to bring him down in avote of no confidenceand send a replacement.
Labor condemned the strategy as behaving like “every tinpot dictator on the planet throughout history” – demanding that Mr Johnson obey the “duty” imposed by parliament.
If Mr Johnson disregards some or all of the bill’s requirements – which is set to receive royal assent on Monday – this could lead to an emergency judicial review in the courts by MPs.
The unprecedented case would start in the High Court and the expectation is that it would very quickly move to the Supreme Court, almost certainly before 31 October.
And it triggeredan extraordinary warning from the justice secretary, Robert Buckland,to obey “the rule of law ”, as he denied he was poised to followAmber Ruddby resigning.
The clashes came ahead of the likely suspension of parliament, at Monday’s close – for five weeks – when the prime minister again fails to secure he general election he craves.
It is a fight to the death for Mr Johnson, who believes he and the Conservative Party will be devoured by theBrexit Partyif Brexit is lost – hencehis vow to lie “dead in a ditch”rather than fold to parliament’s will.
On another dramatic day in the Brexit crisis:
* Francewarned it will veto an Article 50 extension, unless the UK ends the political chaos and tells the EU what it wants
* Brussels’ former top law officerrubbished No 10 ‘s plan to sabotage the EUand make it’ no longer legal ‘, arguing it made no sense.
* Ms Rudd – who was replaced as work and pensions secretary byTherese Coffey– revealed the cabinet was denied legal advice about the decision to prorogue parliament until 14 October.
* The Conservatives took revenge onJohn Bercow, the Commons speaker, by announcing plans to contest his Commons seat, against longstanding convention.
*Leo Varadkar, the Irish premier, vowed his country would not concede on the need for the Irish backstop, ahead of a first meeting with Mr Johnson in Dublin on Monday.
Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, revealed the new strategy when he vowed to “test to the limit ”the cross-party law to block a no-deal Brexit, which is due to receive royal assent on Monday.
It appears crystal clear in stating an extension must be sought – for at least three months – if no deal has been passed by parliament by 19 October, or if MPs have not backed a no-deal departure.
But Mr Raab told Sky’sSophy Ridge on Sundayprogram: “We will look very carefully, legally at what it requires and what it doesn’t require.”
And, pointing to the failed legal actions to stop parliament being suspended, he added: “We had two legal challenges last week and we won both of those.”
Shami Chakrabarti, Labor’s shadow attorney general, hit back, saying: “ I think the position is irresponsible and elitist, the idea there’s one law for Boris Johnson and his mates and another law for everyone else – it’s appalling. ”
“Every tinpot dictator on the planet throughout history has used the excuse of having the people on their side to break the law to shut down parliament and all the rest of it.”
MPs fighting a no-deal Brexit are already lining up a legal team to prepare to go to court to compel Mr Johnson to go to Brussels if necessary.
They would probably apply for an injunction after which – if he refused to comply – a judge could order an official sign off the extension “in place of the prime minister”.
At the weekend, Lord Macdonald, a formerdirector of public prosecutions, said any citizen, including Mr Johnson, would be jailed if they failed to “purge their contempt”.
“A refusal in the face of that would amount to contempt of court which could find that person in prison,” he said.