161031-uk-eu

The decision is not legally binding, although it may put challengers to Theresa May’s Brexit plans in Westminster in what’s known colloquially as “a bit of a bind”.

The judgement concerns itself only with the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland’s constitution – but it seems likely to inform debates in the Westminster Parliament as well.

It isn’t the end of the line for challenges to the legality of Mrs May trigger Brexit without Parliamentary approval – but it is a strong indication that challengers are running out of track.

A challenge to the legality of the UK’s departure proceedings from the EU has been rejected by the High Court in Northern Ireland.

In a judgment which will be of considerable interest to the government defending a similar challenge in England, Maguire J concluded that the UK government does not require parliamentary approval to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty.

This is, par excellence, an area for the exercise of the government’s treaty making powers under the Royal Prerogative.

This ruling was made in response to two separate challenges. One was brought by a group of politicians, including members of the Northern Ireland assembly, the other by Raymond McCord, a civil rights campaigner whose son was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries in 1997. They argued that the 1997 peace deal (“the Good Friday Agreement”) gave Northern Ireland sovereignty over its constitutional future and therefore a veto over leaving the EU. Like the English challengers, they also argued that Article 50 could only be invoked after a vote in Parliament.

At centre stage in the English case is the means by which Article 50 TEU is to be triggered and the question of the displacement of prerogative executive power by statute.  While this issue was also raised in the challenge before the Northern Ireland court, Maguire J also had before him a range of specifically Northern Irish constitutional provisions which were said to have a similar impact on the means of triggering Article 50. To avoid duplication of the central issues which the English court will deal with, this judgment concerned itself with the impact of Northern Ireland constitutional provisions in respect of notice under Article 50.

It was “difficult to avoid the conclusion”, said the judge, “that a decision concerning notification under Article 50(2) made at the most senior level in United Kingdom politics, giving notice of withdrawal from the EU by the United Kingdom following a national referendum, is other than one of high policy.  Accordingly, it seems to fit well into the category of prerogative decisions which remain unsuitable for judicial review”.

Source: Belfast court dismisses Brexit challenge – UK Human Rights Blog

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