Boris Johnson would send delay letter, confirms Brexit Secretary

Boris Johnson will write a letter to Brussels asking for a delay if a deal isn’t approved by Saturday, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told MPs on the eve of today’s crucial Brussels summit.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

Under the terms of the Benn Act passed by opposition parties and Tory rebels, the government must request a delay by Saturday if no deal has been approved by parliament – something the Prime Minister has previously said he will not do, despite the government insisting it will respect the law.

Appearing before the Commons exiting the EU committee, Mr Barclay said the government “will abide by that text” and played down fears that it would seek to get around the law by sending a second letter to Brussels, cancelling out the first.

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Legal action at the Court of Session to force the government to comply with the Benn Act failed because of a written undertaking that ministers would abide by the legislation.

Committee chairman Hilary Benn, the lead proposer of the legislation, asked Mr Barclay: “Can you confirm if there is no agreement reached which is approved by parliament on Saturday that by the end of the day the PM will write the letter?”

Mr Barclay replied: “I can confirm as the PM has repeatedly set out that firstly the government will comply with the law. And secondly, the government will comply with undertakings given to the court.”

Under questioning from SNP MP Joanna Cherry, a petitioner in the Scottish court case, Mr Barclay said he was “not aware” of any plan to send a second letter.

The Brexit Secretary also denied the UK would take a “deregulatory approach” after Brexit to try and undercut EU environment, employment or state aid rules.