The referred bill is the one mentioned in this page.

I ask this question because I don’t understand the following: if Boris Johnson is truly determined to leave the EU without a deal, why can’t he just ignore the bill and do nothing until October 31 approaches. Then regardless what the British parliament wants, the UK will leave the EU anyway.

If my logic is right, then why is the media describing the news as a big deal and why is Johnson worried? If my logic is false, then I welcome any corrections.

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    Presumably a PM who willfully disobeys a law exposes himself to chrages of misconduct in public office cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/misconduct-public-office Commented Sep 4, 2019 at 18:19
  • @Fizz Okay, but isn't the law is impossible to comply with? I mean, there is no alternative to no-deal that Parliment will accept, right? So crash out is the only option by default. What's the point of charging the PM with misconduct when the entire chamber has failed to avoid the very outcome it said shouldn't happen?
    – Joe
    Commented Sep 4, 2019 at 18:46
  • 1
    @Joe There are multiple balls in the air, and multiple viewpoints (which might make this question unanswerable), but from e.g. a Liberal Democrat perspective having an election (which is close to inevitable if the Tory rebels are permanently denied the whip) while ensuring Exit Day doesn't happen in the mean time might be counted as a win.
    – origimbo
    Commented Sep 4, 2019 at 18:52
  • 1
    Note that the Benn bill just passed (with a weird and probably unintended Kinnock amendment). Commented Sep 4, 2019 at 18:56
  • If the UK PM could just ignore any bill, would the UK Parliament still be needed? Commented Sep 4, 2019 at 20:47

1 Answer 1


The bill in question is the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill 2017-19, which if passed, will become the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019. It requires the Prime Minister to ask the EU for Brexit day to be delayed.

If Boris Johnson is truly determined to leave the EU without a deal, why can’t he just ignore the bill and do nothing until October 31 approaches.

Because if the bill becomes law, he would be breaking the law if were to refuse to do as it mandates. Although there is no legal penalty for doing so, it is politically unthinkable for any member of the government to fail to obey the law.

Given that the PM has said he will not ask for a delay, and has also indicated (I believe) that his government will obey the law, the only ways to square this circle are: for the bill to never become law; for the subsequent act to be repealed before the PM has to ask for the delay; or for someone else to be PM.

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    He could also ask for a delay while loudly proclaiming that he is acting against his own wishes, or let another senior member of government sign the actual letter.
    – o.m.
    Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 4:58
  • 1
    @o.m. - Correct. Which is eventually what he did do! Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 16:05

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