Judge rejects legal challenges to Northern Ireland Protocol

The lead judicial review case was pursued in the names of unionists and Brexiteers from across the UK.
Judge rejects legal challenges to Northern Ireland Protocol

By David Young, Jonathan McCambridge and Rebecca Black, PA

Legal challenges against the lawfulness of Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol have been dismissed by a High Court judge in Belfast.

Mr Justice Colton rejected arguments that the contentious post-Brexit trading arrangements breached the terms of the 1800 Acts of Union and the 1998 legislation that underpins the Good Friday Peace Agreement.

In a lengthy judgment, the judge agreed with the applicants’ contention that the Brexit Withdrawal Act, in which the Protocol is enshrined, conflicted with the 1800 Acts of Union.

But he ruled that both were constitutional legislation and said that the Withdrawal Act, which was expressly agreed by the British parliament, effectively overrode the provisions of the 200-year old law.

John Larkin QC
John Larkin QC argued in the High Court last month that the NI Protocol breaches the Acts of Union and the Good Friday Agreement (Paul Faith/PA)

The judge also dismissed the arguments put forward by the applicants that the Protocol breaches key provisions of the 1998 Northern Ireland Act, in particular related to the consent mechanisms contained in the law that flowed from the historic peace deal of 23 years ago.

He ruled the Protocol did not breach articles 1 and 42 of the Act.

The judge also refused the judicial review ground that Northern Ireland citizens’ human rights are being breached by being unable to influence the EU laws that apply in the region, by not being able to elect MEPs to the European Parliament.

He also rejected the argument that the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol breach EU law.

 Tony McGleenan QC
For the UK government, Tony McGleenan QC told the High Court that the NI Protocol was an ‘orthodox application of Parliamentary sovereignty’ (Paul Faith/PA)

The lead judicial review case was pursued in the names of unionists and Brexiteers from across the UK, including former DUP leader Arlene Foster, former UUP leader Steve Aiken, TUV leader Jim Allister, Belfast Agreement architect Lord Trimble, former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib and Baroness Hoey.

An adjoined case was taken by Belfast pastor Clifford Peebles.

Both were dismissed by the judge in Belfast on Wednesday.

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