SCOTTISH judges will today decide whether Boris Johnson is in contempt of court over what critics denounced as his “childish tricks” after he all but urged EU leaders to disregard a letter, required by law, asking for a Brexit extension.
Scotland’s most senior judge, Lord Carloway, and two other justices are set to hear claims the Prime Minister broke a promise to the court that he would not try to frustrate the request for an extension.
If he were to be found in contempt of court, Mr Johnson, in theory, could be fined or even jailed but the judges might suspend any sanction to give him time to comply with their ruling.
The legal hearing comes as:
*the UK Government claimed it had “got the numbers” to get its new Withdrawal Bill through Westminster by the EU’s Hallowe’en deadline;
*Labour’s Keir Starmer said his party would seek to amend the legislation to include a second referendum and a customs union;
*John Bercow, the Commons Speaker, is expected to refuse UK ministers a so-called “meaningful vote” today to ratify the Brexit deal because it would simply repeat Saturday’s debate and
*Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office Minister, announced he is to trigger the Government’s Yellowhammer plan on no-deal preparations.
The PM, who famously said he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than ask for another delay to Brexit, was branded a “spoilt brat” by Labour after he got a senior diplomat to send an unsigned photocopy of the extension letter required by the so-called Benn Act.
But Mr Johnson also sent a second note, this time signed by himself, to Donald Tusk, the European Council President, underlining his personal view that any further extension would be "deeply corrosive" and stressed how for Brussels to agree to one would “damage the interests of the UK and our EU partners and the relationship between us”.
John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, said the PM was “behaving a bit like a spoilt brat”.
Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, insisted there was a “clear case he is in contempt of Parliament".
He told the BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland Mr Johnson was “not treating the office of Prime Minister with any respect or dignity” but stressed it was now a matter for the courts.
His colleague Joanna Cherry, who brought the case which led to the PM's suspension of Parliament being ruled unlawful by the UK Supreme Court, said last night: “Despite his childish trick of not signing the letter and sending a contradictory covering letter, the EU, who are the grown-ups in the room, have accepted the request and are considering it.”
The SNP’s justice spokeswoman said it would now be for the Scottish judges to decide if there had been a “contempt of court”.
But Dominic Raab rallied to his Cabinet colleague’s defence, insisting he “had “complied with the law”.
The Foreign Secretary said: “He has made clear that his view hasn’t changed; Parliament can’t muzzle the PM. He doesn’t want an extension.”