As I understand it, only the PM can ask the EU for an extension. Not Parliament, and not any coalition of civil servants. Just the PM. So what happens if Boris just refuses to do it? This new legislation is said to ‘compel’ him to ask. But the law can’t make him do it if he chooses not to. There are laws against murder, but murders still happen. People choose to commit acts that are against the law. Boris is no different. He can choose not to ask the EU. The Remainers can’t forcibly drag him there and make him say the words. The Remainers can’t forcibly move his hand for him in order to sign the letter. Only he can do it, and he can choose not to.
The question is: what would be the consequences of this refusal? He won’t have committed a criminal act, so it’s not like he will be thrown in jail (although no doubt the left will be clamouring for that). There will be a lot of talk about him being a fascist dictator, etc. but he’s been getting that anyway. I’m sure he can come up with some legal reasoning to justify his behaviour (such as the Queen’s assent issue).
There will be talk that he’s no longer fit to be PM, has brought shame on our country, and all that sort of nonsense, but he can ignore that and carry on as he’ll be a hero to most of the country. He can call a Parliamentary confidence vote so his critics can put up or shut up. If an election results from that I expect he’d win.
The Remainers might try to have his refusal to ask declared illegal, and so, they’ll say, we’re still in the EU. But I don’t think that will wash. The legal situation will be that the extension finished on Oct 31 unless the PM requested another one. As the PM didn’t, the extension has finished.
(Parliament might still have time to act against Johnson in this situation — I’ll post further on that later today.)