The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #165570   Message #4014497
Posted By: DMcG
20-Oct-19 - 03:22 AM
Thread Name: BS: Brexit #3: A futile gesture?
Subject: RE: BS: Brexit #3: A futile gesture?
The second letter is critical, but not for the reasons that may first appear. The fact the Benn Act letter is unsigned would normally cast its legal status into doubt: there is no evidence that the letter came from the PM at all = it could be some junior civil servant who sent it. So it would not, by itself, meet the requirements of the act, I suspect.

However the second letter, which was signed, says he has instructed the letter to be sent. That confirms that the 'Benn letter' is sent by the Prime Minister with the same legal weight as if he had signed it.

There is a key word in phrasing of the Act will, I think, be the crux of the Government's defence when this comes before the courts in the cases scheduled for Monday. It says:

The Prime Minister must seek to obtain from the European Council an extension of the period under Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union ending at 11.00pm on 31 October 2019 by sending to the President of the European Council a letter in the form set out in the Schedule to this Act

Notice it says 'by' rather than, for example, 'including but not limited to'.   They will, I think, argue that by sending the letter they have completely discharged their obligation to 'seek', since the 'by' clause defines what 'seek' means.   There opponents will argue that sending an unsigned letter is a clear breach of the intent of the Act, because unsigned documents generally have no legal significance.