Scottish court rejects legal bid to force Boris Johnson to seek Brexit delay

Mr Johnson has stuck to his promise to take the UK out of Europe by the current deadline as progress on a new exit deal stalls

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - OCTOBER 07: Jolyon Maugham QC, one of those behind the legal petition to gain a court order to make Boris Johnson seek a Brexit extension, stands outside the Court of Session on October 7, 2019 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Scottish judge Lord Pentland, has dismissed a move to force Prime Minister Boris Johnson to seek to delay the UK's departure from the EU. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

A Scottish court on Monday rejected a bid by campaigners seeking an order to force British prime minister Boris Johnson to ask for a Brexit delay if he has not struck a deal with the European Union in less than two weeks' time.

Mr Johnson has repeatedly vowed to take the UK out of the EU on October 31, the current deadline, “come what may” but the judges said that a government commitment to seek a delay in the absence of a deal should be sufficient to ensure the law is obeyed.

While the prime minister also said he would rather be "dead in a ditch" than seek any further extension, parliament passed a law, known as the "Benn Act", which requires him to ask for a delay if there isn’t an agreement with Brusselsl by October 19.

Mr Johnson has said he will abide by the law but has also stuck to his promise that Britain would be out of the bloc by October 31 without explaining that apparent contradiction.

Securing a deal is the only obvious way to obey the law and see through Brexit at the end of the month. But the indications from the EU are that proposals Mr Johnson made last week to resolve the impasse won’t cut it.

Anti-Brexit campaigners asked Scotland's Outer House of the Court of Session to issue an order compelling him to comply with the Benn Act but judge Paul Cullen rejected their case on Monday.

He said “unequivocal assurances” given to the court by the government's top legal officer in Scotland meant it was unnecessary to do so.

“I am not persuaded that it is necessary for the court to grant the orders sought or any variant of them,” Mr Cullen said while giving his ruling Monday.

"The government accepts that in executing its political policy it must comply with the 2019 Act," the judge said in his ruling.

"That being the government’s clearly stated position before the court, there is no need for coercive orders against it or against the Prime Minister to be pronounced."

Lawyer Jo Maugham, one of the campaigners who sought the order, said they would appeal to Scotland's highest court on Tuesday.