Monday 29 May 2017

Britain leaving EU is 'catastrophic' for peace in the North, court told

Sinn Fein's John O'Dowd arrives at Belfast's High Court where a legal challenge to Brexit is due to begin in Northern Ireland. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Sinn Fein's John O'Dowd arrives at Belfast's High Court where a legal challenge to Brexit is due to begin in Northern Ireland. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Alan Erwin

Britain's departure from the EU could have a "catastrophic" impact on the Northern Ireland peace process, the High Court in Belfast has heard.

Lawyers for the father of a loyalist paramilitary murder victim predicted Brexit would cause constitutional upheaval amid renewed calls for a united Ireland.

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

With Northern Ireland having voted to remain in the EU, a judge was also told the Good Friday Agreement has given the people of the North sole sovereignty on the issue.

Ronan Lavery QC said: "A change so profound as withdrawing Northern Ireland from the European Union requires the consent of the people of Northern Ireland."

His client, victims' campaigner Raymond McCord, is mounting a landmark legal challenge to Brexit.

Politicians including Alliance MLA David Ford, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, Sinn Fein Assemblyman John O'Dowd and Steven Agnew of the Green Party are also seeking to judicially review the British Government's move towards quitting the EU.

Proceedings which got under way in Belfast yesterday claim Brexit is unlawful without first securing Parliamentary authorisation.

Even though the June 23 referendum backed Brexit, a 56pc majority of voters in Northern Ireland wanted to remain.

Mr McCord, whose son Raymond McCord Jr was killed by the UVF in north Belfast in 1997, believes they have a legal right to resist being forced out.

His barrister argued that the 1998 Good Friday Agreement led to a transfer in sovereignty over Northern Ireland's constitutional position.

"Only the people of Northern Ireland can decide whether there will or will not be a change in the constitutional status," Mr Lavery argued.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire reiterated yesterday the Common Travel Area would be maintained in the wake of the Brexit vote.

He vowed that the North's interests would be protected when the UK leaves the EU.

Mr Brokenshire reminded the Conservative ­Party conference yesterday that "no-one wants to see a return to the borders of the past", despite fears of a 'hard border'.

"Building a Northern Ireland that works for everyone also means making a success of the UK's democratic decision to leave the European Union," Mr Brokenshire said. "We will work to ensure that Northern Ireland's unique interests are protected and advanced.

"That's particularly the case when it comes to the land border with the Republic of Ireland and the Common Travel Area which has served the UK and Ireland well for many decades."

Also yesterday, it emerged that all of Northern Ireland's main unionist parties are to snub Taoiseach Enda Kenny's all-island Brexit talks.

As the Government set out plans for the November 2 meeting in Dublin, the Democratic Unionists, Ulster Unionists and Traditional Unionist Voice insisted they would not be taking up the invite.

Irish Independent

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