The Court didn’t rule on our case today, but the PM knows Liberty stands ready to hold him to account

Posted by Martha Spurrier on 18 October 2019

Whatever happens in Westminster over the next few days, the Prime Minister knows our case stands ready to hold him to account and ensure the law is upheld.

Today in court the Prime Minister confirmed our worst fears – that he thinks he can take steps which we say would subvert the law. His lawyers told the court that the Prime Minister can take steps whose “likely or anticipated or intended effect” would be to make the EU refuse a request for a Brexit extension. Liberty’s case is that this is unlawful – the Prime Minister cannot act to subvert the Benn Act.

We will be watching events unfold in Westminster over the next few days. Whatever happens, the Prime Minister knows that Liberty and its thousands of members stand ready to act if he seeks to ignore or frustrate the law.

Today’s case was an important part of Liberty’s long-held tradition of holding governments of all colours and persuasions to account.

We launched legal action against the Prime Minister last month after he – and other cabinet members – said he would flout the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act (the ‘Benn Act’). The Act requires the Prime Minister to request an extension to the Brexit deadline if Parliament has not passed a deal by 19 October – tomorrow. Boris Johnson and several of his ministers have said repeatedly that he could ignore or avoid that law. We went to court today, with the help of Liberty members and supporters, to ensure the Prime Minister obeys the law.

In one of the UK’s highest courts we argued that no one – not even the Prime Minister – is above the law. It is shocking that we had to take this unprecedented step. But the day a British Prime Minister is allowed to act outside the law is a dangerous day for all of us. Liberty cannot and will not let that happen.

We have rarely experienced more uncertainty than we do at this moment. It is reckless of the Prime Minister to add fuel to growing national anxiety by saying he can subvert the law. In our case we hope to secure the certainty we all crave by ensuring the Prime Minister will comply with his legal obligations.

The Court of Appeal decided not to hear the case today, but the Prime Minister and his Government know that the case stands ready. If he tries to frustrate the Benn Act by not requesting an extension, or by undermining the request, we will see him in court.

Liberty is and always has been fiercely independent. That’s what makes us the right people to stand up and defend the rule of law. Over the coming days we will be vigilant in our scrutiny of what the Government does. And if the Prime Minister steps out of line, we’ll see him in court.

Martha Spurrier

Martha Spurrier

Liberty
Director