Europe

Johnson to exploit key loophole in Brexit block bill to ensure no extension needed says MP

Boris Johnson was defeated earlier this month as MPs succeeded in turning a new amendment aimed at taking no deal Brexit off the table into law. The Benn Act would force the Prime Minister to request an extension of the withdrawal deadline if no agreement is reached with the European Union by October 31. But Justice Secretary Robert Buckland appeared to tell BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the Government found a loophole to ensure Mr Johnson does not have to apply the law.

As BBC host John Humphrys told Mr Buckland the Government has to apply the law, the Justice Secretary said: “In certain circumstances and that has yet to be used.

“The reality is they passed an Act which has a certain mechanism in it. The position that we adopt is we are striving to get a deal because we want to leave on October 31, we want that clarity.

“That Act, in effects, hands over the initiative to the EU and hands over the power to determine what happens to them.”

The Tory frontbencher also dismissed claims from MPs suggesting their voice was not being heard, as he pointed out they succeeded to repeatedly defeat the Government in the past three weeks.

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He continued: “The idea that Parliament has been prevented from having its voice doesn’t seem to be born out from events.

“What I do know is that, if we are able to have a Queen’s Speech in mid-October, there will be debate during that time and a vote, perhaps a series of votes.

“Parliament has already shown its power – we had a week in September where it made pretty significant legislation.”

Asked about what the Government will do in the event Mr Johnson and Brussels fail to come to an agreement at the EU Summit of October 17, Mr Buckland said it would be “idle” for him to speculate.

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He added: “Harold Wilson said a week is a long time in politics, it feels like an hour is a long time in politics at the moment.

“For me to sit here and imagine what might happen at the end of October is idle.

“The will of Parliament has been to pass that act. Of course, the trigger point doesn’t come until after the Council of Ministers. The Government’s policy is to achieve a deal, that’s what we were just talking about.

“That’s evidenced by what is happening, that is our policy – a deal to leave on October 31, that’s what we will aim to do and what we continued to strive for.”

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Monday dropped new hints the Government could defy the new law as he said Cabinet is looking at the “precise implications” of the bills.

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Speaking to the BBC, Mr Raab said: “I think the precise implication of the legislation needs to be looked at very carefully, we’re doing that, but the Prime Minister is very clear he wants to lead us out of the EU at the end of October and he’s focused on getting a deal.

“We’ve been clear, we’ll comply with the law but the Prime Minister has been absolutely clear we need to bring this process to some finality.”

Mr Johnson met with European Commission outgoing President Jean-Claude Juncker and EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in Luxembourg on Monday to discuss the state of the negotiations.

A statement from the European Commission following the meeting read: “President Juncker recalled that it is the UK’s responsibility to come forward with legally operational solutions that are compatible with the Withdrawal Agreement.

“President Juncker underlined the Commission’s continued willingness and openness to examine whether such proposals meet the objectives of the backstop. Such proposals have not yet been made.

“The Commission will remain available to work 24/7. The October European Council will be an important milestone in the process. The EU27 remain united.”

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