Legal challenge to Brexit to be heard on Friday
An attempt to delay the fast tracking of a legal challenge to a no-deal Brexit in Northern Ireland has failed.
Victims’ campaigner Raymond McCord is challenging the prorogation of Parliament and a potential no-deal Brexit.
The case is being accelerated, with Mr McCord’s legal team pressing for the judgment to be made in time to be examined by the Supreme Court later this month.
The UK’s highest court is set to arbitrate on challenges being made in England and Scotland against the prorogation of Parliament.
During a review hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in Belfast on Thursday, Government barrister Dr Tony McGleenan QC argued that a bill aimed at stopping a no-deal Brexit meant the the case no longer needed to be heard urgently on Friday.
“There are a range of options open to the court, we have all collectively worked to a punishing timetable to have this matter ready for consideration tomorrow, but in my respectful submission that is not necessary now and there may well be some downsides to taking that course.”
Ronan Lavery QC, acting for Mr McCord, countered by saying under that argument the case could end up being heard at midnight on October 30, with reference to the UK’s current date for leaving the European Union.
“This is a case which is prospective in terms of the relief which is sought, it is to make clear into the future what the law is, which applies, so that hasn’t changed,” he said.
“The reasons for bringing this case forward on an urgent basis haven’t changed, there may be some prospect of them changing, anything can happen on a day-to-day basis but it hasn’t happened yet.
“If one follows Dr McGleenan’s submission to the full conclusion, then this court wouldn’t have to litigate anything until late October, indeed midnight on October 30.”
He also claimed there is a “very real issue of candour” in terms of the Government’s approach to Brexit, and suggested that Prime Minister Boris Johnson may be required to attend for cross examination.
Mr McCord and two other applicants are challenging the Government’s handling of the Brexit process. The cases are due to be heard as one.
The campaigner, whose son Raymond McCord Jnr was murdered by loyalists in 1997, is claiming a disorderly Brexit would damage the peace process in Northern Ireland.
After hearing the arguments on Thursday, the judge, Mr Justice Bernard McCloskey, said the case would be heard on Friday.
Speaking outside court, Mr McCord welcomed the expedition of the case.
“Tomorrow is a big day for us, we are here to win it and to ensure that Northern Ireland won’t get left behind,” he said.