Brexit has lit dynamite under Belfast Agreement, court hears

NI judge hopes ruling on handling of Brexit process will be ready by end of month

Northern Ireland’s Lord Chief Justice Declan Morgan. Photograph: David Young/PA Wire

Northern Ireland’s Lord Chief Justice Declan Morgan. Photograph: David Young/PA Wire

 

Brexit has “lit a fuse to a stick of dynamite” under the Belfast Agreement, Northern Ireland’s Appeal Court has been told.

A legal challenge against the UK’s potential no-deal exit from the EU is seeking to “extinguish the fuse” before the peace agreement is destroyed, Barry McDonald QC said.

Mr McDonald was appearing for one of three applicants appealing a High Court judgment that rejected their challenge against the UK government’s handling of the Brexit process.

Judgment in the appeal was reserved to give the judges time to reflect on the arguments made by the applicants in the case and the UK government’s response.

“We’ll try to give a judgment as soon as we can,” Declan Morgan said. He added that he could not guarantee a judgment would be delivered this week but expressed hope a ruling would be ready before the end of the month.

Last week the three challenges were heard together in the High Court in Belfast.

Lord Justice Bernard McCloskey ruled that the issues raised by the three applicants in joined cases touched on political matters that the courts should not intervene on.

Border infrastructure

On Monday all three were before a panel of three Appeal Court judges, led by the North’s Lord Chief Justice, Declan Morgan.

Appearing for an anonymous applicant, Mr McDonald argued that the European Union (Withdrawal) Act passed by parliament in 2018 compelled the UK government to seek a deal that protected North-South co-operation on the island of Ireland and ensured there was no new Border infrastructure erected.

He said an exit that resulted in a hard border would run contrary to the “will of parliament”.

Summing up, Mr McDonald warned that Brexit could have a major negative impact on the peace process.

Another of the applicants is a high-profile campaigner for victims’ rights, Raymond McCord, whose son was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries in 1997.

He is due to go before the Supreme Court later this week on the separate issue of the prorogation of the UK parliament.

Mr McCord will be heard as an “intervenor” in the Supreme Court case assessing the challenges against the UK government’s decision to suspend parliament that were heard in Scotland and England.

His appearance has been scheduled for Thursday. – Additional reporting: PA