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Brexit legal challenge dismissed in Belfast High Court

A legal challenge that argued the government’s Brexit strategy will damage the North of Ireland peace process has been dismissed.

Lord Justice Bernard McCloskey delivered his ruling at Belfast’s High Court on Thursday morning on three joined cases against Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s handling of the UK’s departure from the European Union.

The trio of challenges contended that a no-deal Brexit on October 31 would undermine agreements involving the UK and Irish governments that were struck during the peace process and which underpin cross-border co-operation between the two nations.

But the judge, in his written ruling, judge said: “I consider the characterisation of the subject matter of these proceedings as inherently and unmistakably political to be beyond plausible dispute.

“Virtually all of the assembled evidence belongs to the world of politics, both national and supra-national.

“Within the world of politics the well-recognised phenomena of claim and counterclaim, assertion and counter-assertion, allegation and denial, blow and counter-blow, alteration and modification of government policy, public statements, unpublished deliberations, posturing, strategy and tactics are the very essence of what is both countenanced and permitted in a democratic society.”

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The case was heard at Belfast High Court (Paul Faith/PA)

The case was heard at Belfast High Court (Paul Faith/PA)

One of the applicants was high-profile victims’ campaigner Raymond McCord, whose son was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries in 1997.

Unlike Brexit-related challenges against the government heard in England and Scotland, the Northern Ireland cases cannot leapfrog straight to the Supreme Court following the High Court judgment.

Any appeal would first have to be heard by the Court of Appeal in Belfast.

Judges have set aside time, and indicated a willingness to sit over the weekend, to fast-track the hearing of any appeal.

That could potentially pave the way for the North of Ireland challenge to be heard in the Supreme Court alongside Scottish and English cases next Tuesday.

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