UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said the law passed by MPs designed to block a no-deal Brexit is “deeply flawed”, raising the prospect the government believes it can find a way to get around the legislation.
The so-called Benn Act demands the government ask the European Union (EU) to extend Article 50 if no deal has been reached by October 19.
But UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly said he will not ask for an extension beyond October 31, “no ifs, no buts”.
Asked by BBC Radio 4′s Today programme on Monday morning whether the prime minister would obey the law, Raab said: “The UK government is always going to behave lawfully, I think the suggestion otherwise is nonsense.
But he said the Benn Act was “deeply, deeply flawed” and that Brexit would happen at the end of next month “come what may”.
“The precise implications of the legislation need to be looked at very carefully,” he said.
Lord Falconer, a former Labour justice secretary, told HuffPost UK last week it was “low class garbage” to suggest the law passed by MPs could be dodged.
In his interview on Today, Raab also said that a Brexit transition period would not be extended. “No, it is not something under consideration,” he said.
On Sunday Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay suggested the transition period could be extended from December 2020 until the end of 2022.
The prime minister will stress his “no ifs, no buts” commitment in his first face-to-face talks with EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday.
Writing in UK paper The Daily Telegraph, Johnson said he believes “passionately” that a new Brexit deal can be struck.
But Downing Street has sought to downplay speculation that the meeting could be a breakthrough moment.
Finland’s European affairs minister Tytti Tuppurainen said the UK still had not put forward any proposals that could “compensate” for the removal of the Irish backstop, a condition imposed by the EU to avoid a return to a hard border on the island of Ireland.
“Of course the European Union is always ready to negotiate when a proper proposal from the United Kingdom side is presented,” she said.