Brexit: the UK prime minister could go to prison
Legal experts have warned Boris Johnson could be jailed as the Brexit crisis continues unabated.
MPs, including Tories expelled from the party, are preparing legal action in case the PM refuses to seek a delay to Brexit.
A bill requiring Boris Johnson to ask for an extension to the UK’s departure date to avoid a no-deal Brexit on 31 October is set to gain royal assent.
But the PM has said he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than ask for a delay.
Former attorney general Dominic Grieve has warned the prime minister “could be sent to prison” if he refuses to obey the law and delay Brexit.
Mr Grieve told BBC News Mr Johnson would be “under an obligation” to abide by the law after it has received royal assent.
“If he doesn’t, he can be taken to court which will if necessary issue an injunction ordering him to do it,” he said.
“If he doesn’t obey the injunction, he could be sent to prison.”
Earlier the former director of public prosecutions Lord MacDonald told Sky News a refusal to delay Brexit in the face of court action “would amount to contempt of court which could find that person in prison”.
One Tory MP said the idea of Mr Johnson ignoring the legislation was “nonsense”.
Kevin Hollinrake, MP for Thirsk and Malton, tweeted: “Even if it was under consideration, which I’m sure it’s not, you would see a very significant number of Conservative MPs resigning the whip, including me.”
I have resigned from Cabinet and surrendered the Conservative Whip.
I cannot stand by as good, loyal moderate Conservatives are expelled.
I have spoken to the PM and my Association Chairman to explain.
I remain committed to the One Nation values that drew me into politics. pic.twitter.com/kYmZHbLMES
— Amber Rudd MP (@AmberRuddHR) September 7, 2019
Legal experts have warned the prime minister could go to prison if he refuses to comply with the new law.
MPs have lined up a legal team and are willing to go to court to enforce the law to avoid no deal, if necessary.
Meanwhile, pro and anti-Brexit protesters held demonstrations in Westminster on Saturday, with some people arrested by police.
The cross-party bill – which requires the prime minister to extend the exit deadline until January unless Parliament agrees a deal with the EU by 19 October – was passed on Friday.
Although the government has said it will abide by the law, Mr Johnson described it as obliging him “in theory” to write to Brussels asking for a “pointless delay”.
Downing Street said the British public had been clear that they wanted Brexit done.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told BBC News the party was not taking legal action over the legislation, but said it was “aware of the actions that are being discussed and prepared for”.
He added that Labour would allow a general election “when we are clear that there will be an end to the danger of no-deal on 31 October”.
“We need a clear statement from the prime minister that he is going to abide by that act of Parliament,” Mr Corbyn said.
Meanwhile, Amber Rudd has quit the cabinet and Conservative Party saying she cannot “stand by” while “loyal moderate Conservatives are expelled”.
The work and pensions secretary said she no longer believed leaving the EU with a deal was the government’s “main objective”.
She described the sacking of 21 Tory MPs on Tuesday as an “assault on decency and democracy”.
The MP for Hastings and Rye supported Remain in the 2016 referendum.
Ms Rudd said her resignation had been “a difficult decision”.
The Daily Telegraph reported that the prime minister said seeking another extension is “something I will never do”, fuelling speculation that ministers could try to find a loophole.
But David Lidington, who resigned as Cabinet Office minister in July, in opposition to Mr Johnson’s no-deal Brexit strategy, told the BBC’s Today programme: “The government is bound by the words of any statute that has been duly enacted by the Queen in Parliament, which is a fundamental principle of our constitution and our ministerial code.
“Defying any law sets a really dangerous precedent.”
He added that at a time when other countries were “holding up alternatives to the rule of law and democratic government” it was imperative that British governments always demonstrate they comply with the law.
Mr Lidington, who supported the government in voting for an early general election, urged Mr Johnson to “re-double [his] efforts” in talking to a “wide range” of European leaders to get a Brexit deal he can put before Parliament in October.