Belfast anti no-deal case to conclude on Tuesday

The legal challenge brought in Belfast against a no-deal Brexit is set to conclude on Tuesday morning, after the courts were told they should not be asked to intervene in such high-level political matters.

Three different applicants campaigning against a no-deal Brexit are challenging the Government’s handling of the exit process in the Belfast High Court, arguing that leaving the EU without a deal would have a negative impact on the Irish peace process.

On Monday, Government lawyer Tony McGleenan QC told Lord Justice McCloskey it was not the role of courts to rule on high-level international affairs.

Dr McGleenan QC also rejected the suggestion that the Government had not taken due consideration of the potential impact a no-deal Brexit might have on Northern Ireland.

Referencing Operation Yellowhammer – the Government’s scenario planning exercise – the barrister said: “It’s apparent that the Government has considered, carefully assessed and taken provisions for the contingencies that may arise from an exit without a withdrawal agreement.”

The Government barrister said the course of high-level political negotiations should not be a matter for judicial involvement.

“This is high policy and the conduct of international affairs,” he said.

Dr McGleenan added: “These are not matters the court should be grappling with.”

The applicants behind the action include high profile Irish victims’ campaigner Raymond McCord.

Northern Ireland’s Attorney General John Larkin QC also made submissions to judge Lord Justice Bernard McCloskey on what was the second day of the hearing, insisting process agreements in the country were not dependent on the UK remaining in the EU.

Mr Larkin said the EU was referenced only once in the British-Irish Agreement – the treaty that gave effect to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement – and that was only a brief mention in the preamble.

He said that mention only referred to the UK and Ireland wishing to improve relations between their countries as “friendly neighbours and as partners in the European Union”.

“That can’t be boosted or given a steroid injection as to make it an obligation of continuing membership of the EU on one or both parties,” he said.

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