I drafted this post a week or so before today’s Supreme Court judgment, which makes the scenario I envisage even more likely to occur.
It is foreseeable that Boris Johnson will resign as Prime Minister (but not as Tory leader) in a few weeks time, rather than send that letter. If so, who will succeed him as PM? The present Leader of the Opposition, of course.
Boris would thus break the record for the shortest term in office of any British Prime Minister, though I doubt we’d have seen the last of him even then. It is likely that Jeremy Corbyn would go on to break the same record as Boris had first broken, by managing to remain PM for even fewer days than Boris had lasted.
We can predict that the first action of Jeremy Corbyn in nominal “power” would be to send to the EU the dreaded, grovelling, statutory letter, pleading for a further “extension”. A letter that Boris has promised not to send, preferring instead to resign as PM (or, as he puts it, to be “dead in a ditch”), rather than to be caught wearing the PM’s “hat” so-to-speak when the statutory duty to grovel imposed upon whoever was PM that day fell upon the incumbent like the Sword of Damacles.
If the Council granted the requested Article 50 extension, when caretaker PM Corbyn did the necessary statutory grovelling he’d hoped to make Boris do in person, all well and good. It isn’t particularly exciting to speculate what will happen next in that case. But (to get to my point) if the Council said “no”, then we would have a far more interesting situation on our national hands. The conventional wisdom is that Mr Corbyn would have to revoke Article 50, if he wanteed to prevent the no-deal Brexit he seems to dread from happening automatically on 31st October. But could he revoke? Hence my still unanswered question posed to a recalcitrant Administrative Court almost three months ago, a question that first occurred to me when the previous PM, Theresa May, made her u-turn, almost half a year ago, admitting that, as far as she was concerned, Brexit “may never happen”.
With no majority, Mr Corbyn would be unlikely to get a Bill through both Houses of Parliament giving him a gold-standard, statutory power to revoke Article 50. So he would be tempted instead to purport to revoke Article 50 in purported exercise of the Royal Prerogative. If that happens – and it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility – some might think it a pity that the Administrative Court wouldn’t let me make an application for a declaration that the Royal Prerogative doesn’t give a Prime Minister the power to revoke Article 50, because (I pleaded) only an Act of Parliament could accomplish that. Continue reading