Northern Ireland

Parliament 'should scrutinise' NI EU exit

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Image caption Separate legal challenges to Brexit are being heard in Belfast

Taking Northern Ireland out of the EU would be "an act of profound legal and constitutional, as well as political, significance" the High Court has heard.

A barrister made his comments during a third day of judicial review hearings on legal challenges to EU withdrawal.

He represents a cross-party group of assembly members opposed to Brexit.

Their legal team has argued that the government's Brexit process should be scrutinised by parliament, rather than simply enacted by royal prerogative.

He also pointed out that the Secretary of State James Brokenshire has not offered any advice on the wider issues, even though "it is his role to speak for Northern Ireland's interests".

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Image caption One of those taking a case against Brexit is victims campaigner Raymond McCord

"The Northern Ireland Office must take a position on whether Brexit is good or bad for Northern Ireland and make that position known to the British government" he added.

A separate legal challenge to Brexit is being brought by victims campaigner, Raymond McCord, whose son Raymond Jnr was murdered in 1997.

His legal team has argued that the Good Friday Agreement would make Northern Ireland's withdrawal from the EU unlawful.

A barrister for Mr McCord suggested that Northern Ireland could therefore have a veto over Brexit for the UK.

Speaking after the hearings in Belfast concluded, Mr McCord said: "I believe that enough has been done for us to stop Brexit and for Northern Ireland not to exit out of Europe."

Barristers for the secretary of state and the Northern Ireland Executive have made detailed counter arguments to these claims, saying that the Good Friday Agreement offers no barrier in law to a withdrawal from the EU.

Image caption The case is being heard at the High Court in Belfast

For the secretary of state, a barrister said there was no impediment to the Northern Ireland Executive tabling a debate and communicating its views to the Westminster government.

On Wednesday afternoon, the court heard from Attorney General John Larkin, QC for the NI Executive, who said the Good Friday Agreement put no obstacle in the way of an EU withdrawal,

He asked if the Belfast Agreement could work if any of the players were not members of the EU.

"The answer is inevitably yes," he said. "We already have that."

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Image caption Attorney General John Larkin, QC for the NI Executive, said the Good Friday Agreement put no obstacle in the way of an EU withdrawal

He cited the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey, none of which are in the UK, or the EU.

'Immediate consideration'

Mr Justice Maguire has heard three days of submissions at Belfast High Court and has now said he will give "immediate consideration to the case."

It is expected the court may reconvene pending the outcome of similar legal challenges to Brexit to be heard in London next week.

Speaking after the hearings in Belfast concluded, Mr McCord said: "I believe that enough has been done for us to stop Brexit and for Northern Ireland not to exit out of Europe."

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