A short explanation by Professor Mark Elliot on what the Hilary Benn Billa bill requesting a further delay if there is no deal by 19 October – if enacted, will NOT do.

First published in September 2019.

Professor Mark Elliott is Professor of Public Law and Deputy Chair of the Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge.
• He wrote and shared the following story on Twitter a few hours ago.

Many journalists have repeatedly indicated that the Benn Bill will take no-deal “off the table”, or that it will “legally block” no-deal.

But that is not right.

As currently drafted, the Bill requires the Prime Minister to request a three-month Article 50 extension from the European Council.

But unless the Council unanimously agrees to extend Article 50, the 31 October deadline remains, and the UK exits on that date, deal or no deal.

This is important, including with reference to the Government’s wish to hold a general election.

If those opposed to no-deal want to rule out triggering a general election while no-deal remains a possibility, simply getting the Benn Bill enacted is not enough.

Even with the Benn Bill on the statute book, the possibility of a no-deal exit on 31 October will remain – unless, and until, the European Council agrees an extension.

This means that for those opposed to no-deal, it would not be safe to support a general election immediately upon enactment of the Benn Bill. It would only be safe to do so when (and if) the European Council had agreed to an extension.

The upshot? Setting the bar for supporting an election (as Jeremy Corbyn seemed to last night) as low as enactment of the Bill would be unwise.

To achieve no-deal opponents’ aim, the bar would have to be set at securing an extension. The Bill, on its own, is not enough.🔷

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[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 4 September 2019 with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Screenshot of Parliament on BBC Parliament.)