North­ern Ire­land court re­jects Brexit chal­lenge

Court says N Ire­land can­not over­ride UK govt

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BELFAST:

North­ern Ire­land’s High Court yes­ter­day re­jected an at­tempt to block Bri­tain’s exit from the Euro­pean Union, say­ing that nei­ther the prov­ince’s par­lia­ment nor laws could over­ride a de­ci­sion by the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment. But it said it would de­fer to English courts on the wider is­sue of whether the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment has the right to in­voke Ar­ti­cle 50 of the EU Lis­bon Treaty to leave the bloc, with­out the ex­plicit back­ing of the Bri­tish par­lia­ment. Prime Minister Theresa May wel­comed the rul­ing, with a spokesman say­ing it would al­low the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment “to pro­ceed to trig­ger Ar­ti­cle 50 as planned”. One of the plain­tiffs, hu­man rights ac­tivists Raymond McCord, said he would ap­peal against the rul­ing in the Supreme Court, Bri­tain’s high­est ju­di­cial body.

The case is the first judg­ment in le­gal dis­putes around Brexit that are be­ing closely watched by politi­cians and mar­kets. A case in Lon­don will rule on whether May can use the gov­ern­ment’s “royal pre­rog­a­tive” power to trig­ger Ar­ti­cle 50 with­out con­sult­ing par­lia­ment. “The fact that the gov­ern­ment has won in the North­ern Ire­land case could be seen to in­di­cate that its pre­rog­a­tive power is hold­ing up pretty well,” said Stephen Tier­ney, direc­tor of the Ed­in­burgh Cen­tre for Con­sti­tu­tional Law. “I would per­son­ally be sur­prised if the High Court in Eng­land reached a dif­fer­ent con­clu­sion,” he said.

Ster­ling dips

Ster­ling hit an eight-day low against the euro af­ter the rul­ing. Over­all, 52 per­cent of the United King­dom voted in fa­vor of leav­ing the EU in June’s ref­er­en­dum, but 56 per­cent of those vot­ing in North­ern Ire­land backed re­main­ing in the bloc. There are fears that Brexit could un­der­mine a 1998 peace deal, the Good Fri­day Agree­ment, which ended three decades of blood­shed in the prov­ince, and could lead to the rein­tro­duc­tion of un­pop­u­lar con­trols on the bor­der with the Repub­lic of Ire­land, an EU mem­ber. But jus­tice Paul Maguire said it was “not vi­able” that North­ern Ire­land should over­rule the 52 per­cent of the United King­dom as a whole that voted in fa­vor of leav­ing. The re­gional par­lia­ment would have a say on leg­is­la­tion passed to en­act Bri­tain’s exit, but the trig­ger­ing of Ar­ti­cle 50 it­self was not a “de­volved mat­ter”. “The UK Par­lia­ment has re­tained to it­self the abil­ity to leg­is­late for NI with­out the need to re­sort to any spe­cial pro­ce­dure,” Maguire said. The ar­gu­ments about May’s rights to trig­ger Ar­ti­cle 50 “have been held over pend­ing the out­come of the English lit­i­ga­tion”, he added.

Im­pli­ca­tions for Scot­land

Rights ac­tivist Raymond McCord told jour­nal­ists at the court that the rul­ing was just a set­back and he would con­tinue to fight Brexit. “I be­lieve what we are do­ing is cor­rect. Fifty-six per­cent of the peo­ple of this coun­try (North­ern Ire­land) voted to re­main.” A group of politi­cians and rights groups who launched a par­al­lel case that was merged with McCord’s said they were “deeply dis­ap­pointed” by the re­jec­tion of their case, but had not yet de­cided whether to ap­peal. North­ern Ire­land’s largest Ir­ish na­tion­al­ist party Sinn Fein said it would study the judg­ment care­fully and ex­plore every le­gal and po­lit­i­cal op­tion to en­sure the re­main vote was re­spected. The rul­ing may have im­pli­ca­tions for Scot­land, whose gov­ern­ment ar­gues it should have a say on Brexit be­cause it too voted to re­main in the EU. Ni­cola Stur­geon, who heads the de­volved Scot­tish gov­ern­ment, has said it would be an act of “con­sti­tu­tional van­dal­ism” to try to ig­nore Scot­land’s voice. Her party has drawn up draft leg­is­la­tion on a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum on in­de­pen­dence from the UK, which it says is an op­tion to pro­tect Scot­land’s po­si­tion within the EU.

AFP

BELFAST: Vic­tims’ rights cam­paigner Raymond McCord (cen­ter) speaks to the me­dia out­side the High Court in Belfast yes­ter­day af­ter at­tend­ing the rul­ing in a le­gal chal­lenge against Brexit. —

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