Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s self-imposed October 31 Brexit deadline looks further out of reach than ever. On Monday, Parliament was suspended for five weeks, but not before an anti-no deal Brexit bill was given royal assent. The bill, introduced by Labour MP Hilary Benn, aims to block the UK leaving the EU on October 31, and will force Mr Johnson to request a three-month delay on October 19, if a deal is not in place.
The Benn Bill clearly states it is the Prime Minister himself who would have to request an extension directly to the president of the European Council.
The bill even includes the exact wording of the letter, meaning if Mr Johnson refuses to sign it would likely lead to court action.
But a Downing Street insider previously said: “We intend to sabotage any extension.
“The Surrender Bill only kicks in if an extension is offered.
“Once people realise our plans, there is a good chance we won’t be offered a delay.
“Even if we are, we intend to sabotage that too.”
Legal experts have dismissed suggestions Mr Johnson could find a “loophole” to avoid complying by the new law.
But the Prime Minister is reportedly considering a plan to send another letter – along with the legally required one – stating Britain does not actually want a delay.
Former Supreme Court Justice Lord Sumption suggested such a move would be illegal.
He said: “Not only has he got to send the letter, but he’s also got to apply for an extension.
“To send the letter and then try to neutralise it seems to me, plainly, a breach of the Act.
“What you’ve got to realise is the courts are not very fond of loopholes.”
If Mr Johnson did pursue the irrevocable step of simply ignoring the law, it would certainly be repercussions, both in and outside of Parliament.
However, there are scenarios in which he would not have to break the law and still leave the EU by October 31.
One possible scenario is that MPs approve a Brexit deal in another meaningful vote.
The second is that MPs vote in favour of leaving the EU without a deal.
But the latter is highly unlikely as there is a majority in Parliament against no deal.