The High Court in Belfast has dismissed a legal challenge to the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol, the part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement that created an “Irish Sea border”.
Refusing a judicial review of the protocol, Mr Justice Colton said that although the protocol conflicted with the 1800 Acts of Union, the modern legislation effectively overrode it.
“Much constitutional water has passed under the bridge since then,” the judge said, declaring the “clear political will of parliament” in regards to the modern arrangements for Northern Ireland must be preferred.
The ruling will bolster the negotiating teams from the European Union and the UK, which today will confirm the extension of the grace period for the importation of British chilled meats into Northern Ireland.
It’s hoped the move will ease some of the tensions surrounding the operation of the protocol, which has led to a so-called “sausage war” ahead of the marching season in Northern Ireland.
Traditional Unionist Voice party leader Jim Allister said the group behind the case would appeal – potentially as far as the UK Supreme Court.
“This battle is far from over because we refuse to accept that the Union is over, which is the message of the protocol,” he said.
The challenge was taken by a range of unionist leaders including former first minister Arlene Foster and the Nobel Peace Prize-winning architect of the Good Friday Agreement, Lord David Trimble.
Mr Allister, former Labour MP Kate Hoey and former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib were among those who took the case who attended court today.
It was their contention that the protocol is unlawful because it breaches the Acts of Union, which created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 1800, and the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which was the culmination of the peace process.
However, Mr Justice Colton also refused the contention that the Brexit Withdrawal Act arrangements breached articles 1 and 42 of the 1998 Northern Ireland Act, which gave effect to the Good Friday peace agreement.
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