Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s feared refusal to abide by the will of Parliament over Brexit presents a “fundamental threat” to human rights, advocacy group Liberty has warned.
The civil liberties group announced on Monday (9 September) it is bringing a judicial review against Prime Minister Johnson to ensure he abides by the rule of law.
This week, Parliament has passed a bill – informally known as the Benn bill, after its proponent Labour MP Hillary Benn – intended to prevent a no-deal Brexit. It is due to gain Royal Assent, or in other words be rubber stamped by the Queen, imminently.
The bill requires the PM to seek a three-month extension from the European Union in the event he is unable to secure a deal by 18 October, ahead of the current Halloween deadline.
PM Boris Johnson has indicated he will not ask for an extension despite the will of Parliament, and faces accusations that doing this would breach constitutional law. It is also argued he could be found in contempt of court – a jailable offence.
Recent reports suggest Johnson may try to get around the Act by asking the EU for an extension, while simultaneously sending a separate request for the initial letter to be ignored.
We consider that such an unprecedented step would represent a fundamental threat to the civil liberties and human rights enjoyed by those in this country and which our mandate requires us to defend.
A letter to PM Boris Johnson from human rights group Liberty
In a letter to the PM, Liberty warned any decision to deliberately evade legal obligations would have a “profoundly detrimental impact on the whole fabric of our legal system and constitutional order.”
It continues: “We consider that such an unprecedented step would represent a fundamental threat to the civil liberties and human rights enjoyed by those in this country and which our mandate requires us to defend.”
Liberty says it will withdraw its legal action against the PM if he makes a statement within two days to confirm he will comply with the obligations of the Act.
“This case is about ensuring that the government – whoever it is, or whatever its intention – acts within the law,” said Martha Spurrier, the group’s director.
“We’re living in extraordinary political times. But just because we’re beyond the norm doesn’t mean the government can act beyond the law.
“To allow a government, in whatever circumstance, to punch through parliamentary process and law because it’s not working in the way they would like, should concern everyone in Britain.”
The group says it is neutral on the issue of Brexit, and this case is nothing to do with whether or how the UK leaves the EU.