Boris Johnson could take fight for a no deal Brexit to the Supreme Court and seek judges ruling to avoid having to postpone leaving EU past October 31 – after Stephen Barclay refused three times to say whether the PM would write the letter
- Boris Johnson is planning a court showdown over the Benn Act, which calls for an extension if Parliament does not agree a deal
- He told French President Emmanuel Macron the EU should ‘match UK compromises’
- Said ‘we have to push forward’ to Macron over the phone, ahead of EU Council
- Any deal has to be signed off by Council on October 17 to get through Parliament
- EU leaders feel Benn Act will stop No Deal and set Johnson a Friday deadline
- A senior No.10 source says this belief would be a ‘historic misunderstanding’
Boris Johnson is preparing to launch a legal battle at the Supreme Court to avoid being forced to ask the European Union for a Brexit delay.
Mr Johnson is desperate to avoid breaking his pledge for the UK to leave the EU by October 31, and he could even give evidence in court to persuade judges against forcing him to ask for an extension, according to the Daily Telegraph.
It comes after French President Emmanuel Macron warned Mr Johnson that the EU should not be lured into the mistaken belief that the UK will stay in the EU after October 31 and urged the EU to ‘match the compromises’ the UK has made.
With time running out to secure an agreement ahead of next week’s EU Council, the Prime Minister used a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday to insist: ‘We have to push forward.’
The intervention came amid signs that EU leaders are happy to drag their feet on the assumption that the Benn Act – which Mr Johnson calls the Surrender Act – will neutralise his No Deal threat.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned EU leaders about the ‘final opportunity’ to secure Brexit and used a phone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron (pictured right) to insist ‘we have to push forward’
Instead of ordering intensive talks, EU leaders set Mr Johnson a fresh deadline of Friday to make further compromises.
According to reports, Mr Macron told him they would ‘evaluate at the end of the week whether a deal is possible that respects European Union principles’. That leaves hopes of a deal based on Mr Johnson’s proposals hanging by a thread. Any deal would have to be formally signed off at the EU Council on October 17 if there is any hope of getting it through Parliament by the end of the month.
Opposition MPs believe they have Mr Johnson trapped as the Act will force him to request an extension on October 19.
A senior No.10 source has said the Benn Act, which Mr Johnson refers to as the Surrender Act, will undermine negotiations with EU leaders ( pictured with Macron in Paris for a Brexit meeting on August 22)
However, a new report suggests the Prime Minister is prepared to launch a legal battle in the Supreme Court in an effort to avoid having to write to the EU asking for a delay to Brexit.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Mr Johnson could even give evidence in court to persuade judges against forcing him to ask for a Brexit delay.
In the phone call with Mr Macron, Mr Johnson told the French leader that the EU should not be lured into the mistaken belief that the UK will stay in the EU after October 31 and urged the EU to ‘match the compromises’ the UK has made.
And a senior No 10 source said: ‘The Surrender Act and its authors are undermining negotiations, but if EU leaders are betting that it will prevent No Deal, that would be an historic misunderstanding.’
Yesterday, Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay went to the Netherlands for talks and is expected in other EU capitals today and tomorrow.
Mr Johnson’s EU ‘sherpa’ David Frost will return to Brussels this morning and the PM is expected to continue telephone diplomacy.
Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay (pictured with host Andrew Marr facing away) went for talks in the Netherlands and is expected at other EU capitals today
But there was precious little sign of the momentum needed to get a deal done in time. On Saturday, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier demanded ‘different proposals’ from the UK saying that otherwise talks could not ‘advance’.
In other developments:
- Mr Barclay suggested the UK could give ground on the details of the ‘consent’ mechanism for the Northern Ireland Assembly;
- Opposition MPs discussed installing John Bercow as interim Prime Minister to stop No Deal, it was reported.
- A poll put the Tories 15 points ahead of Labour – as a Jeremy Corbyn ally suggested there would be an election by the end of the year.
- The Lib Dems agreed to a ‘Remain Alliance Pact’ in which they will not stand a candidate against leading anti-Brexit campaigner Dominic Grieve.
- There was speculation Mr Johnson could try to sabotage the EU budget and send Nigel Farage to Brussels as a commissioner if he is forced to delay Brexit.
- Former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said she would not be standing for election again.
- Aides also suggested Mr Johnson will refuse to quit No 10 if he loses a confidence vote even if MPs back another successor.
Today, a Scottish court is expected to rule in a case brought by Remain campaigners which seeks to force Mr Johnson to show his hand on extension.
If they win, it could mean any attempt to avoid asking for a delay would leave Mr Johnson facing contempt of court proceedings.
Parliament will sit for two days this week and then is expected to prorogue before a Queen’s Speech next Monday.
Brussels officials have all but killed off the idea of getting a deal based on Mr Johnson’s proposal done by next week’s EU summit or by October 31.
They are expected to make an 11th hour offer of a time-limited Northern Ireland-only backstop that would keep it inside the customs union. No 10 has insisted this is a red line for Mr Johnson.
Tories’ 15-point poll lead… as the Lib Dems stand aside for Grieve
The Tories soared to a 15-point poll lead over Labour last night in a boost driven by support for Boris Johnson’s attempts to ensure Brexit happens at the end of the month.
The Opinium poll put the Tories on 38 per cent, up two points, while Labour was down 1 per cent on 23. The Lib Dems saw the largest dip, falling 5 per cent from 20 to 15 per cent.
Six in ten Brexiteers now back the Tories, the highest level since the 2017 election.
And the poll for the Sunday Express showed 29 per cent of voters would rather Mr Johnson as Prime Minister than his opponents – up two points. That is more than the combined total of support for Jeremy Corbyn and Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson – on 14 per cent and 12 per cent respectively.
Polling expert Professor John Curtice said he believed there was a 50 per cent chance of the Tories winning the next election and a 50 per cent chance of a hung Parliament.
It came as the Lib Dems agreed to stand aside in Dominic Grieve’s seat in a ‘remain alliance’ pact at the next election. The Tory rebel, who was kicked out of the party last month, has said he will stand as an Independent in Beaconsfield in what is set to be a Brexit showdown with the Conservative candidate.