Boris Johnson’s letters to Brussels 'may be in contempt of parliament', Labour's John McDonnell says

Andrew Woodcock

Boris Johnson’s two letters to the EU may be in contempt of parliament, Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell has said.

The prime minister is facing court action on Monday after his letters to European Council president Donald Tusk were branded “pathetic” by the MP who led a successful legal challenge against his unlawful suspension of parliament.

Johnson was forced by a humiliating defeat in the House of Commons on Saturday to submit a request to Brussels for an extension of the Brexit process beyond his 31 October deadline.

But he insisted he would not negotiate an extension, and sent two letters to Mr Tusk – an unsigned message relaying parliament’s request for an extension to and a signed letter from him setting out why he does not believe delay would be in the interests of the EU or UK.

Downing Street said it believes the move fulfils the requirements of the Benn Act, which required the prime minister to seek an extension if he was unable to secure parliamentary approval of his Brexit deal by the end of Saturday.

But Scottish National Party MP Joanna Cherry dismissed the PM’s gambit as “pathetic” and said she would be pushing for legal action in Scotland’s highest court on Monday.

And Mr McDonnell told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “It may well be in contempt of parliament or of the courts themselves, because they’re clearly trying to undermine the first letter.

“Not signing the letter is behaving a bit like a spoilt brat. Parliament made a decision and he should abide by it.”