Appeal court judges look to fast-track Brexit challenge route to Supreme Court

Appeal court judges in Northern Ireland are prepared to sit over the weekend to fast-track a Brexit challenge’s potential route to the Supreme Court.

The prospect of a Saturday hearing was raised as legal arguments in three joined cases against the Government’s Brexit strategy concluded in Belfast High Court.

Judge Lord Justice Bernard McCloskey said he would deliver his reserved judgment on the “complex and fast-moving” proceedings on Thursday morning.

Unlike similar Brexit-related challenges against the Government heard in England and Scotland, the Northern Ireland cases would not be able to leapfrog straight to the Supreme Court following the High Court judgment.

If either side decided to challenge the judgment, they would first have to be heard by the Court of Appeal in Belfast.

Noting that the UK’s highest court had set aside September 17 as the date it would examine the English and Scottish cases, Lord Justice McCloskey said Appeal Court judges were on stand-by to fast-track the Northern Ireland challenges so as they could also be heard at the Supreme Court on the same day.

Raymond McCord
Mr McCord warned that no-deal could destroy the peace process (Liam McBurney/PA)

“They will consider sitting any time from Thursday onwards, including Saturday,” said the judge.

The three challenges, one of which was taken by high profile victims’ campaigner Raymond McCord, contend that a no-deal Brexit would undermine agreements involving the UK and Irish governments that were struck during the peace process.

They allege the UK Government has not taken due consideration of the impact of no-deal on Northern Ireland in its Brexit planning.

The Government rejected that contention during two days of legal proceedings in the High Court.

Outside court on Tuesday, Mr McCord said it was vital the case was aired in the Supreme Court.

“We look forward to Thursday to hear judgment,” he said.

“I think that it’s imperative that Northern Ireland is represented in the UK Supreme Court.

“We have a lot more at stake than the people of England and Scotland and Wales, so it’s a must, the Supreme Court.”

Mr McCord said a no-deal would damage the peace process.

“Things in general have worked pretty well under the conditions of the Good Friday Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Ireland and the British Government – this could destroy it all,” he said.

“We have seen the violence in the past 12 months or so, I think that’s only a taste of things to come if a no-deal Brexit goes through.”

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