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By Tobias Ellwood
By Ben Guerin
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Boris Johnson will ask EU for Brexit delay if no deal is agreed, court documents confirm

3 min read

Boris Johnson will ask the EU for an Brexit delay if he fails to get a deal within the next two weeks, government documents have confirmed.

A submission to the Court of Session in Edinburgh says the Prime Minister will obey the so-called Benn Act, the law passed by MPs forcing him to request a three-month extension to the 31 October deadline.

This is despite Mr Johnson previously insisting he would rather be "dead in a ditch" than ask for another delay.

The document was revealed by Aidan O'Neill QC, the lawyer acting for campaigners who want judges to issue an interdict, or injunction, forcing the PM to delay exit day if no agreement is signed off by 19 October.

The group, led by SNP MP Joanna Cherry, secured an emergency hearing in Edinburgh on Friday.

Mr O'Neill told Scotland’s highest court the Government has pledged that Mr Johnson will write a letter to Brussels asking for an extension if he fails to get a deal passed by Parliament in time.

The document said the PM is “subject to the public law principles that he cannot frustrate the purpose” of the Benn Act.

It adds: “Thus he cannot act so as to prevent the letter requesting the specified extension in the Act from being sent.”

But shortly after the Act was passed, Mr Johnson told the Commons: “I will go to Brussels on 17 October and negotiate our departure on 31 October, hopefully with a deal, but without one if necessary.

“I will not ask for another delay.”

A spokesman for Number 10 declined to discuss the matter, saying: "The Government does not comment on ongoing legal cases."

Jolyon Maugham, a pro-Remain lawyer who is also part of the Cherry case, told Sky News: "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.

"And so what the hearing is now about is whether we can push the court to clearly engage its contempt jurisdiction.

"Then on Tuesday we now know we will have a full hearing before the Inner House of the Court of Session in which the Inner House will consider whether or not if the Prime Minister refuses to do what he has today told the court he will do the court can sign the letter for the Prime Minister, the letter mandated by the Benn Act."

But Steve Baker, chair of the European Research Group of Tory Brexiteers, tweeted: "A source confirms all this means is that Government will obey the law. It does not mean we will extend. It does not mean we will stay in the EU beyond Oct 31. We will leave."

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