CIVIL rights group Liberty has lost an eleventh-hour court bid to hold Boris Johnson to Brexit law.

The organisation, formerly led by Labour peer Shami Chakrabarti, asked the Court of Appeal in London to allow an urgent hearing of its case to compel Boris Johnson to "act within the law" – before it is "far too late".

It sought to act before tomorrow's crunch parliamentary vote on Johnson's latest Brexit deal.

The charity announced plans to bring the case in September, saying it was "gravely concerned" by media reports which suggested Johnson intended to flout Brexit legislation.

Liberty aimed to ensure the Prime Minister complies with the Benn Act, which requires him to ask for an extension to the current October 31 Brexit deadline if parliament does not approve his leave deal by Saturday, when MPs will sit in a specially-convened day of business.

But senior judges have refused to fast-track the case.

In a statement, the charity tweeted: "Today we asked Court of Appeal judges to ensure the PM obeys the law. They won’t hear our case now - but the fight continues. We'll be watching what happens this weekend. The law is still the law & our case is standing by to hold the Gov to account."

The case is separate to that taken to Scotland's Court of Session by anti-Brexit campaigner Jo Maugham QC, who was part of the Cherry case.

The National:

Ahead of the hearing, Liberty director Martha Spurrier insisted the move was not driven by either party allegiance or an opposition to leaving the EU.

The organisation is non-affiliated and "neutral" on EU membership.

The National:

Spurrier stated: "This case is about ensuring that the Government – whoever it is, or whatever its intention – acts within the law.

"We hope that on Friday the Court of Appeal will make it crystal clear what the Prime Minister can and cannot do under the Benn Act.

"These are extraordinary political times – but that doesn't mean the Government can act beyond the law.

"Any government which defies parliamentary process and law because it doesn't serve their aims should be a cause of concern for everyone."

In court, Liberty's lawyers said Johnson may "seek to procure" a refusal to extend the Brexit deadline if his latest deal is rejected by MPs.

Richard Hermer QC said: "It is at least being considered by the defendant that he is fully entitled, notwithstanding the terms of the Act, to seek to procure a refusal from the European Council."

Hermer told three senior judges that any steps taken by Johnson which are "intended and likely" to result in the European Council refusing to agree an extension to the Article 50 period are likely to result in "irreversible" consequences.

He added: "Accordingly, in order to avoid irremediable consequences of fundamental constitutional importance, it is essential that the lawfulness of those steps is determined before such irreversible consequences are caused.

"If the application is not considered until after October 19, it will be too late for the court to grant any effective relief."

If the full hearing goes ahead, Liberty will ask for a declaration that the Prime Minister cannot take steps which would be likely to result in the EU refusing to agree to an extension, as required by the Benn Act.

A crowdfunder to support the case has raised nearly £20,500.