Johnson hopes to bluff his way out of the Brexit mess. But it may mean jail, say legal experts.

Boris Johnson making speech in front of police
Tom Coburg

UK prime minister Boris Johnson hopes to bluff his way out of the Brexit mess he finds himself in. But according to law experts he could end up being jailed.

Meanwhile, Amber Rudd MP announced her resignation from the Cabinet and the Conservative Party. This was in response to Johnson’s handling of Brexit and his treatment of her one nation Tory colleagues.

Johnson would “rather be dead in a ditch”

A cross-party bill that requires Johnson to seek a delay to Brexit until January 2020, unless a deal with the EU is agreed by 19 October, was passed by Parliament. And it is expected to become law on Monday 9 September.

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But Johnson has unequivocally stated he’ll refuse to delay Brexit. He added “I’d rather be dead in a ditch” than ask Brussels for a delay in Brexit:

And in case of doubt, in an email to Tory MPs Johnson said:

“[Parliament] 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.

Jail for Johnson say law experts

Former director of public prosecutions Lord MacDonald reportedly said that Johnson could be jailed for contempt of court should he ignore a legal demand that he delays Brexit:

Former attorney-general Dominic Grieve agrees.

And Financial Times contributing editor David Allen Green believes Johnson could face jail up to life imprisonment for Misconduct in Public Office. He adds:

Also caught would be any person, even if not a public official, who conspired, assisted or encouraged the offence

In other words, cabinet members and Johnson’s advisers. Moreover, if they or Johnson are not arrested by the police, they could be subject to a citizen’s arrest (notwithstanding the high security afforded to the PM and his associates).

Call my bluff

There is an argument that Johnson’s refusal to delay Brexit is all about forcing opposition parties to agree to a snap election, expected to be called on Monday. But if Johnson wins that election, with the help of the Brexit Party, he could still go for no-deal by seeking to repeal the legislation and rescind any court order.

And there is another consideration:

Ultimately, the Prime Minister has it in his power to make sure that the UK does not get an extension (even while fulfilling his legal duty to request one) by making certain demands that the EU is bound to refuse.

Meanwhile, to be on the safe side, opposition parties are likely to request a court order “to compel Mr Johnson to seek a delay”.

But Johnson could decide not to call for a general election once parliament returns on 14 October, after the prorogation period ends. Should that happen, Labour could then call for a vote of no confidence and seek to form a caretaker government.

Next few weeks

Hannah White, deputy director at the Institute for Government, sums up her views on what could likely happen over the next few weeks. They include how the Queen could play a significant role:

Whatever happens, the game is on. And depending on what his next moves are, Johnson could end up being the first UK prime minister to end up in jail.

Featured image via screenshot

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    1. Not likely he’ll end up in jail, unfortunately. Much more probable that if he refuses to request an extension in good faith, there’ll be an injunction and the court could empower someone other than Johnson to sign what is necessary. That would be his avoid jail card and the courts would be more inclined to do that than jail a PM.
      A GE is his only way out. He can’t hang on. He can’t get a Queen’s Speech through. The ideal may be for the rebel alliance to ensure the date is early November, then do or die becomes die. Whatever happens, watch out for John Mann, he is going to help the Tories paint Labour as riddled with antisemitism during the campaign. He will do that as a member of the Party. Odd isn’t it? Watch out too for him proposing legislation to outlaw any criticism of the Israeli State or ethno-political Zionism as Jew-hating. He is helping the nasty Party, because he’s a nasty man.

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