Published On: Fri, Sep 27th, 2019

British court contradicts Supreme Court saying Brexit is matter for MPs not judges | UK | News

The Belfast High Court rejected an appeal by a campaigner who claimed leaving the EU without a deal would breach the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Judges today dismissed the legal challenge by Northern Irish rights activist Raymond McCord who said no deal would undermine the peace agreement that ended 30 years of sectarian violence in the province.

Northern Ireland’s chief justice Sir Declan Morgan made it clear responsibility for the outcome of Brexit did not lie with the courts.

In a 36-page ruling handed down this morning, he said: “It is not appropriate for this court to examine the possible outcome of the Brexit negotiation on the basis of political rhetoric.”

He refused on all grounds Mr McCord’s appeal a ruling by the Northern Ireland’s high court against his challenge to the Government’s handling of the Brexit process.

An official summary of the judgement read: “The Court of Appeal today dismissed an appeal brought by three appellants in a challenge to decisions of the UK Government to conduct Brexit negotiations which they suggest would not protect the operation of the Belfast Agreement and/or are incompatible with the Northern Ireland Act 1998.”

Lawyers for Mr McCord, whose son was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries in 1997, argued a leaving the EU without a deal to smooth the transition for Britain would breach the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that largely ended violence between Irish nationalists seeking a united Ireland and pro-British unionists.

Sir Declan, who heard the appeal with Lord Justices Stephens and Treacy, acknowledged the applicants’ submissions “demonstrate that a UK withdrawal from the EU without an agreement would give rise to the very considerable risk of deterioration in the security situation in Northern Ireland”.

But he said: “It is not our task, however, to evaluate the merits of a UK withdrawal from the EU without an agreement.”

Backing the High Court decision, the judges said the Government was exercising prerogative powers in its negotiations with the EU.

Sir Declan said: “The exercise of the prerogative power in the negotiations with the EU 27 is within the scope of the prerogative and is not justiciable.

“Ministers are, of course, subject to questioning in parliament about the negotiations and secondary legislation facilitating withdrawal is subject to scrutiny.

“Parliament will have the opportunity to vote on the outcome of the negotiations.

“The European Union Withdrawal Act does not constrain that exercise of that prerogative power.

“It is not appropriate for this court to examine the possible outcome of the negotiation on the basis of political rhetoric.”

The Northern Ireland case is separate to the UK Supreme Court ruling this week that Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue Parliament for five weeks was unlawful.

The UK’s highest court declared the Prime Minister went beyond his powers when he advised the Queen to suspend Parliament until October 14 .

A panel of 11 justices ruled unanimously his advice to the Queen was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating Parliament.

The court also held that the prorogation itself was “void and of no effect” and therefore Parliament had not been suspended.

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