Court rules Northern Ireland CANNOT veto Brexit

Posted in Google Brexit News
at 2016.10.28
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Court rules Northern Ireland CANNOT veto Brexit

Belfast High Court had heard a case opposing the Prime Minister’s ability to kickstart Brexit negotiations by next March without the consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The challenge had been brought by a cross-community group of politicians and human rights campaigners.

They wanted to establish that devolved decision-makers at the Stormont Assembly could veto Brexit, assert rights to consultation over whether to launch Article 50 talks with Brussels and protect peace process guarantees enshrined in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which largely ended republican and loyalist violence.

But the country’s High Court today rejected the argument the Northern Ireland Government will have to pass a consent motion before Mrs May can invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the legal mechanism for quitting the EU.

The UK Government has consistently argued it has royal prerogative powers to decide when to begin Brexit negotiations without consulting the UK’s various parliaments.

A similar legal challenge is currently being considered by the High Court in London, but the Belfast court today said its ruling only applies to Northern Ireland law and should not prejudice other cases.

Brexit Northern IrelandPA • GETTY

Campaigners argued Northern Ireland should have a say on when Theresa May triggers Article 50

Raymond McCord, whose son was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries, had a separate Brexit challenge surrounding its impact on the peace process heard alongside that of the politicians at the High Court in Belfast.

During several days of hearings recently a lawyer for Mr McCord argued that Northern Ireland could block withdrawal from the EU.

The barrister said the country enjoyed control over its own constitutional change including all-island relations following the 1998 Agreement.

Dismissing the cases, Mr Justice Paul Maguire said: “While the wind of change may be about to blow, the precise direction in which it will blow cannot yet be determined so there is a level of uncertainty, as evidenced by the discussion about how the Northern Ireland land border with Ireland was affected by withdrawal from the EU.”

He added: “In respect of all issues, the court dismissed the applications.”

Following the ruling, Mr McCord vowed to launch an appeal at the UK’s Supreme Court.

He said: “Today is a setback but we will see the judges in London.

“I believe what we are doing is correct. Fifty-six per cent of the people of this country voted to remain.”

The group of politicians and rights groups who led the parallel case that was merged with Mr McCord’s said they were “deeply disappointed” by the rejection of their case, but had not yet decided whether to appeal.

Mrs May welcomed today’s decision by the Belfast High Court, the Prime Minister’s official spokeswoman said.

Northern Ireland EU referendum campaignGETTY

Northern Ireland shares the UK’s only land border with an EU state

In respect of all issues, the court dismissed the applications

Mr Justice Paul Maguire

Northern Ireland shares the UK’s only land border with an EU state, the Republic of Ireland, and the British and Irish Governments have said they are keen to ensure there is no return to the hard borders of the past.

If the UK leaves the EU’s customs union, the bloc could demand a secure frontier in Ireland to prevent goods flowing in and out of the EU from Northern Ireland without paying required tariffs or facing checks on rules of origin.

Stormont’s senior legal adviser attorney general John Larkin had told the court nothing in the Belfast Agreement which largely ended violence in 1998 had been affected by Brexit.

He said there were no substantive obligations in the Agreement which required continued membership of the EU.

EU referendumGETTY

More than half of of Northern Irish voters backed Remain

A barrister for the UK Government said no court could block the will of the people as expressed in the June referendum.

Some 56 per cent of Northern Irish voters backed Remain but some unionist-dominated areas supported Leave. The largest party in Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionists, campaigned for an exit.

Stormont AssemblyGETTY

The group wanted to establish if the Stormont Assembly has the power to veto Brexit

Former Stormont justice minister David Ford, senior Sinn Féin Assembly member John O’Dowd and nationalist SDLP leader Colum Eastwood were among those supporting the challenge.

In London, an investment manager and hairdresser are taking legal action opposing the right of the Government to start the process of withdrawing the UK from the EU without a vote in Parliament.

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Published at Fri, 28 Oct 2016 17:38:47 +0000

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