Could Boris Johnson fulfill his legal duty to send the required extension request to Brussels by posting it via a post/courier that would not arrive before Oct.31.
I believe it was a 2 week window when the extension is triggered so find a service that takes more than 2 weeks to make delivery without instructing a purposeful delay.

  • Note that the opposition can table a vote of no confidence when it realises that the letter hasn't arrived in Brussels, so this trick, even if it's possible, isn't really going to help Boris.
    – michau
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 13:21

2 Answers 2


He could try, but it would likely be illegal and he could face jail.

British courts tend to take a dim view of people trying to subvert the intent of clear laws using technicalities or shenanigans.

The court would likely order someone else to deliver the letter in good time.

  • The linked article doesn't support your answer. It's concerned with a different scenario: "Boris Johnson would be in contempt of court if he applied for an article 50 extension while simultaneously trying to get the EU to reject it". If he sent the letter via a slow route, it wouldn't be an attempt to get the EU reject the extension, but rather an attempt to make the application impossible to accept or reject.
    – michau
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 15:28
  • 4
    @michau it's the same principal. The several people in the linked article note, the courts are unlikely to look favourably on any effort to undermine the clear intent of the law. That includes being deliberately slow, claiming the dog ate it, trying to veto our own extension, begging other EU leaders to veto it etc.
    – user
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 15:31
  • What if Johnson uses a delivery service that guarantees delivery in, let's say, 24 hours, but bribes them to "lose" the letter? In such a scenario, Johnson would have a receipt that the letter was sent and I don't think it would be possible to prove that he wanted to undermine the law. Only an exposure of the bribe would destroy the plan, but given the number of hard Brexit supporters in the UK, it wouldn't be hard to find someone willing to cooperate in such a plan even without a bribe.
    – michau
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 16:41
  • 1
    @michau In that case it would be fairly trivial to get a court injunction to make him deliver another copy by hand, given that he has a reasonable chance to be meeting with the rest of the European Council at that point in time. That kind of argument is not the best way of attacking a political problem.
    – origimbo
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 16:51
  • 2
    @michau what is Boris Johnson bribes NASA to redirect an asteroid onto the Royal Mail van carrying his letter? What if Boris Johnson passes a law banning the sale of printer ink in the UK? What if Boris Johnson writes the letter in sand the tide washes it away before the EU can read it?
    – user
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 17:20

In the UK, Ministers may not act or fail to act so as to circumvent or frustrate an Act of Parliament.

That is called 'the public law principle'.

In addition, Prime Minister Boris Johnson assured a Scottish court that he will abide by this specific Act (the so-called Benn Act) and not frustrate its purpose.

Therefore any method of sending the letter such that the purpose of the Act would be frustrated would breach the public law principle and Johnson's assurances to the court.

I think that would risk a charge of misconduct in public office, a finding of contempt of court and the resignation of his Advocate General (who made the assurances to the court on Johnson's behalf).

But I am reasonably certain he will send the letter. All the stuff about him not doing it, not wanting to do it, or finding secret ways around it, is propaganda intended to appeal via the media to the British public, maintaining the facade of the tough guy who is on their side.

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