Andrea Leadsom believes the government will send two letters to avoid Brexit extension

Andrea Leadsom appears on Peston's television show. Photograph: ITV.

Andrea Leadsom appears on Peston's television show. Photograph: ITV. - Credit: Archant

Andrea Leadsom has hinted at how the government intends to get round the Benn Act and take Britain out of the EU on October 31.

The business secretary said it would be "perfectly reasonable" for Boris Johnson to write a second letter to Brussels - in addition to the one the legislation requires him to send - stating he does not want a Brexit extension.

The Benn Act was passed by opponents of a no-deal Brexit at Westminster last month to force Number 10 to request an extension from the EU if no deal is secured by October 19.

However, ministers have continued to insist that despite the legislation Britain will leave on October 31 regardless of whether an agreement with the EU has been reached.

Leadsom gave the first indication on how the government plans to attempt this when she told ITV's Peston show that sending a second letter would create a loophole for them.

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This second letter would make clear to EU leaders that the UK government does not want any delay.

When asked by ITV's political editor Robert Peston about the possibility of sending a second letter Leadsom said it would be "perfectly reasonable".

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"It's quite clear that government's policy is that we do not want to delay so I don't think anyone is in any doubt about that. So it's perfectly reasonable to make it clear," she said.

But critics have been quick to argue such a move would be unlawful.

Sir Keir Starmer, shadow Brexit secretary, said: "Andrea Leadsom's comments are neither the spirit nor the letter of the law.

"If there is no deal by the end of next week, the prime minister must ask for, and accept, an extension. One letter. No equivocation."

Joanna Cherry QC, the SNP justice and home affairs spokesman, said: "Boris Johnson promised Scotland's highest court to comply with the Benn Act and not to frustrate its purpose so these silly childish tricks are out.

"[It's] just as well we have the option to go back to court on October 21."

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