Boris Johnson ‘could go to prison if he refuses to delay Brexit’
Boris Johnson could go to prison if he refuses to delay Brexit, former Director of Public Prosecutions Lord MacDonald says
- Anti-No Deal law should receive Royal Assent on Monday after debate this week
- Johnson has he would not entertain seeking another deadline extension to Brexit
- Last night, he indicated that he would rather defy the law than agree extension
- But today, Lord MacDonald, 66, said he could end up going to jail if he does so
- And former Tory MP Dominic Grieve said the Prime Minister ‘can’t ignore the law’
Boris Johnson could go to prison if he refuses to delay Brexit, the former Director of Public Prosecutions has said.
Lord MacDonald, 66, told Sky News today that should Johnson decide to ignore a bill which prevents a No Deal exit he could face prosecution.
This is because, should Johnson ignore the bill, he could be found in contempt of court. Asked if it would be ‘an extreme outcome’, Lord MacDonald said ‘it is by convention that if you are found guilty of defying a court order then you are jailed’.
A rebel anti-No Deal law is expected to receive Royal Assent on Monday after peers agreed to its passage on Friday.
It will require the PM to seek a Brexit delay beyond October 31 if Britain and Brussels have not struck an agreement in the run up to Halloween.
Johnson has earlier said he would not entertain seeking another deadline extension from Brussels, as the incoming law compels him to do so if no agreement is in place by October 19.
But Mr MacDonald added: ‘A refusal in the face of that would amount to contempt of court which could find that person in prison.’
Last night, the PM wrote to all Tory members to indicate that he would rather defy the law than beg Brussels for a delay in bringing Britain out of the EU.
The Prime Minister said he was only bound ‘in theory’ by a law which is expected to receive Royal Assent on Monday, taking a No Deal Brexit off the table.
In his letter, he reiterated his determination to stand firm against Remainers, saying: ‘They just passed a law that would force me to beg Brussels for an extension to the Brexit deadline. This is something I will never do.’
Lord MacDonald, 66, (right) has said that should Johnson (left) decide to ignore a bill which prevents a No Deal exit he could face prosecution
Dominic Grieve, a former Tory MP who had the whip removed for rebelling last week, said today that Mr Johnson needs to obey the law or else he’ll be sent to prison
Earlier on Friday he told reporters he would not entertain seeking another deadline extension from Brussels, as the incoming law compels him to do so if no agreement is in place by October 19.
He was urged last night by Tory grandee Iain Duncan Smith to hold his nerve, saying he would be ‘martyred’ if he chose to break the law and risk a possible prison sentence for contempt of Parliament.
Mr Duncan Smith told The Telegraph: ‘This is about Parliament versus the people. Boris Johnson is on the side of the people, who voted to leave the EU.
‘The people are sovereign because they elect Parliament. But Parliament wants to stop the will of the people.’
But others, including his cabinet ministers, are urging him to abandon his Brexit strategy and ‘come up with a plan B’ after his plans for a snap general election were thwarted by opposition parties.
And Dominic Grieve, a former Tory MP who had the whip removed for rebelling last week, said: ‘He can’t ignore the law. A Prime Minister is subject to the law of the land just like anybody else.
‘If he were to attempt to ignore it the government would be taken to court and he would be ordered to send the letter.
‘And if he didn’t send the letter he would be sent to prison for contempt.’
Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds were spotted leaving an Aberdeen hotel yesterday as they headed to Balmoral for an audience with the Queen. The PM and his partner are due to stay overnight before heading back to London amid Brexit turmoil
Britain’s opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves his home in north London (left) and Tory grandee Iain Duncan Smith (right) is urging the PM to become a Brexit martyr
Mr Johnson’s latest plans for a snap election appeared to have been scuppered yet again last night by a ’stitch-up’ between Jeremy Corbyn and Remain parties.
Labour, the Lib Dems and Scots and Welsh nationalists agreed to block the public going to the polls before October 31.
It leaves the Prime Minister in limbo, forced to choose between resigning or defying a law passed by MPs ruling out a No Deal Brexit.
He has emphatically ruled out further delay.
If Mr Johnson fails to carry out the will of Parliament, he risks being taken to court and, if a judge ordered him to obey Parliament, he could be held in contempt and even jailed for refusing.
One senior government figure has now said his whole strategy is ‘in tatters’ and that he needs to have a ‘fundamental re-think’ of Downing Street’s approach.
It came as the Conservative party remained at loggerheads over the Brexit crisis.
The new law blocking no-deal will rule out an early election before the European Council summit on October 17 as Labour and other opposition parties want the threat of leaving the EU on Halloween to have expired before agreeing to a fresh poll.
Last night, the PM wrote to all Tory members to indicate that he would rather defy the law than beg Brussels for a delay in bringing Britain out of the EU (he is pictured wrestling with a bull at a farm in Aberdeen yesterday)
Labour, the Liberal Democrats, SNP and Plaid Cymru met on Friday and agreed to block the PM’s election request when it is put to the House of Commons again on Monday.
A similar motion was defeated by MPs on Wednesday, failing to make the two-thirds threshold needed to dissolve Parliament.
Opposition parties believe they have successfully backed Mr Johnson into a corner on his pledge to leave on October 31 ‘do or die.’
Could Boris Johnson break the law to deliver a No Deal Brexit?
Boris Johnson has said that he will not ask the EU for a Brexit delay in any circumstances.
But when anti-No Deal legislation makes it onto the statute book on Monday he will be legally required to ask Brussels to push back the departure date by October 19 – a few days before his October 31 do or die deadline.
Many people believe that Mr Johnson will quit rather than break his ‘do or die’ Brexit pledge.
But if he does try to stay in Downing Street and also stick to his Brexit promise he will be on course to break the law – an unthinkable prospect for any prime minister.
Any attempt to not comply with what Parliament has said must happen would spark the mother of all political rows and almost certainly ignite legal challenges.
Ultimately, MPs do have the power to oust Mr Johnson in such circumstances by calling and winning a vote of no confidence after MPs return to Parliament on October 14.
That would allow Remainer MPs the chance to form a temporary government and send their own representative to Brussels to seek an extension before likely triggering an election.
However, before that point Number 10 could try to find a work around.
For example, there has been speculation in Westminster that Mr Johnson could refuse to go to Brussels himself but send somebody else in his place.
This would be politically poisonous because it would still represent the ‘do or die’ promise being broken and set the Tories up to be eaten alive by the Brexit Party.
If sending a Cabinet colleague was too difficult politically, it has been suggested that a senior civil servant could be sent to fulfill the requirements of the law on the grounds that the PM was unwilling to do it.
But again, such an approach would still tarnish Mr Johnson’s Brexit credentials.
Downing Street could also try to advance a legal argument against fulfilling the terms of the legislation on the grounds that talks with the EU were ongoing and that efforts should be concentrated on striking a deal.
Such an argument is unlikely to hold much weight in a court of law.
Ultimately if the PM breaks the law there will be consequences which is why a resignation appears more likely.
They will vote down or abstain when the Prime Minister tables another general election bid on Monday.
The Prime Minister has been forced down two alleys: resign or quit. He will resign if he has to make that choice, according to the Spectator’s Political Editor, James Forsyth.
Writing in the Sun, he said a source had told him: ‘The public increasingly realise that MPs and Jeremy Corbyn want to delay Brexit and Boris wants to get this done. That’s good for us and bad for them.’
If he were to resign, the Queen would ask MPs if anyone else could form a government capable of commanding a majority in the Commons and if the answer was no there would have to be an election. The law would still dictate that a Brexit delay must be sought, with a poll likely to then be held in November.
Earlier yesterday, Mr Johnson said he would not entertain seeking another deadline extension from Brussels, as the incoming law compels him to do if no agreement is in place by October 19.
Asked if he would obey the new law’s demand for him to write to EU leaders requesting more time, Mr Johnson said: ‘I will not. I don’t want a delay.’
The Times reported that senior Government figures now want Mr Johnson to ‘come up with a plan B’ and distance himself from Tory Eurosceptics after he was boxed in by the Opposition.
‘Boris needs to make peace with the Tory rebels and get serious about making a deal with Brussels, even if that means throwing the Spartans [hardline Brexiteers] under a bus,’ one Cabinet minister told the paper.
‘Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s senior adviser, may be very clever but his plan has failed. We now need a plan B.’
Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, was scathing about Mr Corbyn’s decision to block an election.
Writing in The Telegraph, she said the Labour leader was showing ‘disdain for democracy’ and causing ‘bewilderment and anger’ among voters, while accusing him of blocking a vote because he thinks the public ‘can’t be trusted to decide’.
But Mr Johnson could be set to use the election manoeuvring to his advantage by quitting Number 10 in order to hand power to Mr Corbyn, forcing him to call for a Brexit delay and face the backlash from leave voters at the next election.
Mr Johnson made the traditional prime ministerial trip to the Queen’s Balmoral estate after visiting Aberdeenshire on Friday. But the visit will be shorter than expected due to the political turmoil in Westminster.
The PM, accompanied by partner Carrie Symonds, 31, stayed at the castle on Friday night before their return to London on Saturday.
Events continued to be rocky for the PM as more senior Tory MPs announced they would be quitting Westminster.
Protests are scheduled across the country over the weekend against Mr Johnson’s leadership and Brexit strategy, with demonstrations in London on Saturday.
MPs return to Parliament for the Queen’s speech on October 14 and Remainers have the numbers to oust Johnson in a vote of no confidence if he indicates he will refuse to delay Brexit.
Mr Corbyn and the other leaders of the ‘Rebel Alliance’ agreed to combine forces to stop Mr Johnson forcing an early general election on Monday. The Prime Minister will need the support of two thirds of the House of Commons to succeed but with the opposition now all on the same page his attempt at triggering a snap poll appears doomed to failure.
That could leave the PM stuck in Number 10 but unable to deliver a No Deal Brexit on October 31 and he could be forced to resign rather than break his ‘do or die’ pledge.
Downing Street is believed to be considering a fall-back option if the bid on Monday fails which would see it introduce a new, very short piece of legislation calling for an election and setting a date.
Such a course of action would enable the government to skirt the two thirds majority rule set out in the Fixed-term Parliaments Act with a simple majority enough to get it through.
But it would be a risky move because the draft law would be amendable so rebel MPs could hijack it and set their own poll date for after October 31.
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