Belfast court dismisses legal challenge to Brexit Northern Ireland protocol

The high court in Belfast has thrown out a legal challenge to the Northern Ireland Brexit protocol.

The ruling is a boost for UK and EU negotiators who are planning to announce a package of new arrangements aimed at taking the heat out of the current dispute over Brexit checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea from Great Britain to Ireland.

Mr Justice Colton refused a judicial review, rejecting the argument of the Democratic Unionist party and others that the protocol breached the 1800 Acts of Union, declaring that “much constitutional water has passed under the bridge” since then.

The high court had been asked to decide whether to allow a full-scale judicial review of the law agreed in January 2020 by the EU and the UK as part of Boris Johnson’s “oven ready” Brexit package put to voters in the 2019 general election.

The judicial review proceedings were brought by the former Democratic Unionist party leader Arlene Foster, former UUP leader Steve Aiken, Traditional Unionist Voice political leader Jim Allister, Lord Trimble, the former head of the Ulster Unionist party and co-architect of the 1998 Belfast Good Friday agreement peace deal, the former Brexit party MEP Ben Habib and leave campaigner and former Labour MP Kate Hoey.

During a hearing last month, legal counsel for the unionist leaders argued that the protocol was unlawful because it breached the Acts of Union and the 1998 Good Friday agreement.

Former Northern Ireland attorney general John Larkin QC had argued that the protocol breached article 6 of the Acts of Union which created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1800, by leaving Northern Ireland inside the EU’s customs union.

He also claimed it was contrary to the Northern Ireland Act which brought the peace deal into law.

He said: “If the power to make law for Northern Ireland can be given to Brussels, it can be given just as legally to the Oireachtas [Irish parliament].”

The legal action was brought as part of formal campaign, launched by the DUP in January, to get the protocol scrapped.

The verdict comes hours before the EU and the UK are expected to announce a new package of arrangements to ease the dispute over Brexit checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea, which some have called the “sausage wars”. The announcement is scheduled for 3.30pm.


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