Seek a Brexit extension or end up in court, Benn tells Johnson

Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Boris Johnson will find himself in court if he cannot secure a deal by October 19th, the chair of the Brexit select committee Hilary Benn has said.

"If the prime minister were extraordinarily to say I have no intention of complying with the law then he could expect to find himself in court on the Monday morning," he said.

Opposition MPs and some Conservative MPs passed a law which requires Johnson to seek an extension to the UK's EU membership if he fails to secure a Brexit deal at the EU Council meeting.

The so-called Benn Act, proposed by Benn, means that Johnson must ask for an extension if he fails to secure parliamentary approval for a Brexit deal on or before October 19.

"The act could not be clearer. The act gives the prime minister the chance to get a deal because that is how we got support from the members of the House of Commons. It says that if by the 19th of October, a deal has not been agreed and has received the support of the House of Commons then he has to write a letter," he said.

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"He promised the House of Commons that he would bring forward proposals ahead of the 30-day deadline and we have yet to see them," he said.

Benn and his colleagues were in Dublin to meet Irish deputy prime minister Simon Coveney and business groups.

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He said he would not like to see any checks on or near the Irish border if there is no deal.

"Anything that looks like checks, even away from the border is going to create difficulties and I think people cannot underestimate how little time is left," he said.

"We all attach such importance to keeping the Border as it is today with all of the progress and peace economic activity that has come since the Good Friday Agreement."

Asked if Labour would support a Stormont lock which could help break the Brexit impasse, he said he would not object to a Northern-Ireland only agreement, but it would not solve the future trading agreement.

He said: "We don't know what is potentially being discussed here. A Northern Ireland-only backstop was offered by the European Union during the negotiations.

"My concern is how does that relate to Boris Johnson's declared objective of having a Canada-style free trade agreement which is an even less close economic relationship between the EU and UK's trading relationship than Mrs May's was.

"A Canada style arrangement is going to require checks unless you find a way around it."

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