Labour says Johnson could be in contempt of parliament after Brexit letter

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Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has insisted Boris Johnson may be in contempt of parliament over Brexit.

McDonnell hit out at the way the prime minister distanced himself from a legally required request to the EU for a Brexit extension which he refused to sign.

The shadow chancellor accused Johnson of “behaving a bit like a spoilt brat” over the issue.

Johnson stressed to Brussels he was only sending the letter at parliament’s bidding.

Brexit
Letter written by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to the European Council President Donald Tusk (10 Downing Street/PA)

After suffering an embarrassing defeat in the Commons over his Brexit plans, Johnson got a senior diplomat to send Brussels an unsigned photocopy of the call by MPs to delay withdrawal from the bloc, with a cover note.

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In a second note to European Council president Donald Tusk, the PM said a Brexit extension would be “deeply corrosive”.

Speaking on Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Mr McDonnell said:

He may well be in contempt of parliament or the courts themselves because he’s clearly trying to undermine the first letter and not signing the letter.

He’s behaving a bit like a spoilt brat.

Parliament made a decision, he should abide by it and this idea that you send another letter contradicting the first, I think it flies in the face of what both Parliament and the courts have decided.

Johnson sent the letters after telling the commons he will not negotiate a fresh Brexit extension with the EU.

Tusk tweeted:

The extension request has just arrived. I will now start consulting EU leaders on how to react. #Brexit

The move followed a special Saturday sitting of the commons where MPs voted by 322 to 306 in favour of an amendment withholding approval of his Brexit deal until legislation to implement it is in place.

House of Commons vote – Letwin amendment
(PA Graphics)

The amendment tabled by former cabinet minister Sir Oliver Letwin was intended to force him to comply with the so-called Benn Act requiring him to seek a Brexit extension.

Johnson rang European leaders, including Tusk, on Saturday declaring that the letter “is parliament’s letter, not my letter”.

The Benn Act set a deadline of 11pm on Saturday for the prime minister to get a deal if the UK is to leave on October 31, otherwise, he is supposed to seek an extension.

Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said the government was planning to give MPs a fresh chance to have a “meaningful vote” on the deal hammered out by Mr Johnson with Brussels on Monday.

Speaker John Bercow said he would rule on Monday whether it was in order for the government to hold the vote, after not pressing ahead with it on Saturday following its defeat on the Letwin amendment.

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