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Liz Truss admits she does not know how Boris Johnson plans to get round Benn Act

4 min read

Cabinet minister Liz Truss has admitted that she does not know how Boris Johnson plans to leave the EU without a deal on 31 October despite a cross-party law forbidding him from doing so.

The International Trade Secretary said she did not "know the precise details of exactly what we will do" following repeated assertions that the Prime Minister still intends to go for a no-deal Brexit on the Hallowe'en deadline if he cannot strike a deal with the European Union.

MPs passed a law last - known as the 'Benn Act' - last month requiring the Prime Minister to seek a Brexit extension from the EU if he cannot strike a deal by 19 October.

But the PM and a string of Cabinet ministers have taken to the airwaves in recent weeks to assert that the UK can still leave deal-or-no-deal by 31 October while abiding by the law.

Repeatedly grilled on how that would happen by BBC Radio 5 Live's Emma Barnett, Ms Truss said: "Well, Boris Johnson will not ask for an extension."

She added: "We’ll leave without a deal. That’s clear – deal or no deal, we’re leaving on the 31st."

Ms Truss was then asked whether the Cabinet had been told how Mr Johnson would both abide by the Act and leave the EU on 31 October without an agreement.

She conceded: "No."

And the Cabinet minister went on: "I don’t know... I don’t think it’s very wise to guess exactly how this is going to pan out. There are lots of steps in this process to go."

Ms Truss added: "What I’m saying to you Emma is that this is an absolute priority of the Prime Minister to leave on the 31st of October...

"Emma, am I going to speculate about our internal strategy on national broadcast? No I’m not."

When it was put to her again that she did not know Mr Johnson's strategy, Ms Truss replied: "Well I don’t know the precise details of exactly what we will do and even if I did I wouldn’t tell you."

Ms Truss's comments come after Chancellor Sajid Javid insisted that the Government does have a plan to bypass the Benn Act - dubbed the 'Surrender Act' by Number 10.

Pressed during a round of broadcast interviews on whether he knew how Downing Street would achieve it's aims, Mr Javid said: "I think I do."

He added: "The intention of the law is clear and I do think it has absolutely made it harder for the Government to get the deal that we all want to see. That said, it can still be done.

"It's not about getting around the law ... I don't really want to discuss the detail of this law, it's a pretty fresh new law, but we are also clear at all times we, of course, like any government, we will absolutely observe the law."


Elsewhere in Ms Truss's 5 Live interview, the International Trade Secretary said she does not feel sorry for the Duchess of Sussex after the royal launched a legal bid against the Mail on Sunday for publishing a private letter.

The International Trade Secretary said Meghan Markle was a “big asset” to the UK - but insisted that public figures must be ready to face “slings and arrows”.

A statement issued by Prince Harry vowed to stand up to media intrustion, arguing that it “destroys people’s lives” and amounts to “bullying”.

It comes after a handwritten note sent from the Duchess to her father was published.

Speaking to Radio 5 Live, Ms Truss admitted she had not read the letter or article in question, but that she is a “great believer in free speech”.

“I think Meghan Markle is a big asset to the UK. Along with the rest of Royal family [she] does a very good job and attracts a huge amount of positive attention for Britain,” she said.

"Any public figure inevitably faces the slings and arrows of being out in public. It’s part of what it’s about whether you’re a politician, whether you’re in  the royal family, whether you’re a journalist...

"I do think people should be able to say what they think about public figures in the press.”

She added: “I don’t think we should necessarily protect people, but personally I think Meghan is a massive asset."

 Asked whether she felt sorry for the former actress, Ms Truss said: “No,  because I believe that she is enjoying the role that she’s taken on.

"I think she’s doing a good job at the role and I think with any public position inevitably comes a certain amount of flak."

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