2 min read30 June
The Belfast Hight Court has ruled that the Northern Ireland Protocol is not unconstitutional, shooting down a legal challenge spearheaded by pro-Brexit politicians.
Mr Justice Colton rejected a judicial review on Wednesday morning, dismissing the claim that the post-Brexit treaty for Northern Ireland breached the 1800 Acts Of Union.
The legal action was brought by senior unionist politicians including former DUP leader Arlene Foster and former UUP leader Steve Aiken, as well as former Labour MP Kate Hoey.
Hoey this morning told BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme that the group would launch an appeal to the Supreme Court if their legal challenge was unsuccessful.
The verdict is a boost for the UK government and European Union as the two sides look to make progress in talks on how to simplify the Northern Ireland Protocol for affected businesses.
The EU is set to confirm later today that it has agreed to extend a grace period covering the movement of chilled meats from Northern Ireland to Great Britain after a UK request.
The announcement, reported by PoliticsHome last week, will put a temporary end to the so-called “sausage war” which has dominated UK-EU relations over the past few weeks.The Protocol, agreed as part of Brexit talks, was designed to avoid a contentious hard border on the island of Ireland but has created a trade border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
The post-Brexit arrangements have angered staunchly unionist politicians in the province and contributed to recent unrest among loyalist communities, with the government and EU accused of assaulting unionist identity.
John Larkin QC, Northern Ireland’s former attorney general, argued in court that the treaty breached the Acts of Union by leaving Northern Ireland inside the EU’s customs territory.
He added that the Northern Ireland Protocol was also contrary to the Northern Ireland Act which was used to put the Good Friday Agreement into law in 1998.
An affidavit submitted by Lord Trimble, the former leader of the UUP, said the treaty “ignores the principle of consent” and argued: “Northern Ireland is no longer fully part of the UK, it has been partly annexed by the EU”.
However, the argument was rejected by Mr Justice Colton, who said “much constitutional water has passed under the bridge” since 1800, and that the Acts Of Union had been superseded by the Withdrawal Agreement Act, which put the Brexit deal struck last year into UK law.
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