Liberty brings legal action to ensure Prime Minister obeys law

09 September 2019

  • Liberty urges PM to comply with the law as it brings judicial review case
  • Move comes as concerns rise over whether PM will refuse to abide by the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act (the Act)
  • Independent watchdog must lead this case to shore up public confidence

Liberty has today brought a judicial review to ensure the Prime Minister upholds his obligations under the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act.

The human rights and civil liberties organisation has made the move in light of recent comments by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other members of his cabinet demonstrating the PM’s apparent intention to flout the law regarding the execution of the Act. The bill is due to receive Royal Assent imminently.

In an accompanying letter to the Prime Minister today, Liberty warned a decision by any Minister of the Crown to deliberately evade legal obligations would have a “profoundly detrimental impact on the whole fabric of our legal system and constitutional order”.

Liberty has called on the Prime Minister to make a statement within two days affirming that he will comply with his obligations under the Act. If he does so Liberty will immediately withdraw its application to bring legal action.

Liberty is not affiliated with any political party, and for more than 80 years has robustly challenged unjust laws, policies and practices.

Liberty is a cross-party, non-party membership human rights organisation which has held governments of all political persuasion to account since 1934.

The objective of Liberty’s litigation is to ensure that the UK government respects and upholds human rights and civil liberties.

Liberty is neutral on the issue of Brexit, and this case is nothing to do with whether or how the UK leaves the European Union.

Martha Spurrier, Liberty director, said:

“We hope this action is unnecessary. However, we would be failing in our duty if we sit back when doubts about the execution of the law swirl over Westminster.

“It is our fierce independence which makes this a case that Liberty must lead. At a time when public faith in parliamentary process is so low, it is essential that party politics are removed from this matter.  People must know that this case is not fought on party lines or that it is anything to do with Brexit.

“This case is about ensuring that the Government – whoever it is, or whatever its intention – acts within the law.

“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.”

In a letter to the Prime Minister today, Liberty said:

“We consider that a decision by any Minister of the Crown – let alone the Prime Minister – to deliberately evade obligations under primary legislation would be a grave affront to the rule of law and the UK’s constitutional settlement and would have a profoundly detrimental impact on the whole fabric of our legal system and constitutional order.  It would plainly be unlawful.  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.”

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