16:37, September 09 233 0 theguardian.com

2019-09-09 16:37:04
Liberty seeks judicial review forcing Johnson to abide by Brexit bill

The civil rights group Liberty has launched a judicial review case seeking to compel Boris Johnson to comply with a bill passed by rebel MPs obliging him to request a Brexit delay.

In a letter to the prime minister, Liberty said any attempt to evade legal obligations would have a “profoundly detrimental impact on the whole fabric of our legal system and constitutional order”.

The organisation said it would withdraw its application for a judicial review if Johnson made a public statement in the next two days agreeing to comply with the provisions of the bill, which is expected to be given royal assent on Monday.

The prime minister has repeatedly insisted he will not ask the EU for an extension to Brexit, while saying he would comply more generally with the law. Downing Street has refused to explain how the contradiction might be squared.

The bill, which passed through parliament last week after MPs seized control of the Commons timetable, obliges the government to seek a Brexit extension to the end of January if by 19 October it has not passed either a departure deal or gained MPs’ consent to crash out of the EU.

In a statement explaining the judicial review bid, Liberty stressed it was not affiliated to any party and was neutral on Brexit. However, the group said it was vital to guarantee the principle of the rule of law.

“It is our fierce independence which makes this a case that Liberty must lead,” said Martha Spurrier, Liberty’s director. “At a time when public faith in parliamentary process is so low, it is essential that party politics are removed from this matter.

“People must know that this case is not fought on party lines or that it is anything to do with Brexit. This case is about ensuring that the government – whoever it is, or whatever its intention – acts within the law.”

The letter said any decision to evade legislative obligations “would be a grave affront to the rule of law and the UK’s constitutional settlement and would have a profoundly detrimental impact on the whole fabric of our legal system and constitutional order”.

A spokesman for the judiciary said: “An application for urgent consideration of a judicial review was received today from Liberty with the prime minister as defendant. The court said the claim was entirely hypothetical and the application for urgent consideration was without merit. The court can always make arrangements for an urgent hearing if the occasion arises.”

Johnson will make another attempt on Monday to evade having to seek an extension by forcing a general election for 15 October. The Fixed-term Parliaments Act requires a two-thirds majority of MPs to vote for an early election, and with opposition parties opposed the motion seems set to fail.

Parliament will be suspended from Monday night until mid-October, No 10 has confirmed.