Man who got legal aid to challenge Brexit believes it will also fund an appeal

Raymond McCord at Belfast High Court during his case opposing Brexit.
Photo Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
Raymond McCord at Belfast High Court during his case opposing Brexit. Photo Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press

The man who is challenging the legality of Brexit has said that he believes that legal aid will also cover an appeal if he loses the High Court action.

Lawyers for Raymond McCord, whose son was murdered by the UVF in 1997, are asking the Belfast court to stop the entire UK leaving the EU because a majority in Northern Ireland did not endorse that decision.

In a case which has potentially momentous constitutional ramifications for the UK, Ronan Lavery QC told the High Court on Tuesday that it should interpret the Good Friday Agreement to mean that it was impossible for Northern Ireland to be taken out of the EU against the wishes of its people.

Yesterday the case – as well as a concurrent but separate case which was brought by politicians and human rights groups – concluded in court, with the judge reserving judgement but promising to “immediately” consider the issues.

TUV leader and veteran QC Jim Allister has said that he will eat his hat if the cases succeed.

Speaking to the News Letter about how he got legal aid for the Brexit case, Mr McCord said: “I was turned down and I appealed it.

“My solicitors had to go and sit in front of the Legal Aid Commission – it wasn’t that I just put in an application and it was granted.

“At the appeal, my solicitors had to state their case. The legal aid was given and the panel had to believe that there was both merit in the case and a chance of success.”

Mr McCord criticised Paul Frew, the DUP chairman of the Assembly’s Justice Committee, for questioning the decision to grant legal aid for such a case.

He said that Mr Frew is “entitled to have an opinion”, but said that he should have come to court to hear the case before deciding whether or not it had merit.

When asked if - in the event that the High Court finds against him - the legal aid will also cover an appeal to the Court of Appeal, Mr McCord said: “I believe that it does. I’m pretty certain of that.”

When asked if he intended to pursue an appeal if he loses, Mr McCord said that it was “one possibility”, adding: “I feel strongly about it.”

In court yesterday during less than an hour of final legal arguments, the judge was told that there had been agreement between the parties that if there is a costs order imposed by the court those costs will be capped – regardless of whether the government or the applicants are asked to pay for the proceedings.

The court was told that this was the same approach which has been taken in the case taken in London, which is due to be heard later this month.

Two years ago, Mr McCord was convicted of fraudulently taking almost £70,000 from the public purse by claiming a range of benefits while failing to declare his employment.

At the time, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison, which was suspended for three years.

Two years ago, Mr McCord was convicted of fraudulently taking almost £70,000 from the public purse by claiming a range of benefits while failing to declare his employment.

At the time, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison, which was suspended for three years.

How the case unfolded:

Day one: Taxpayer-funded lawyer urges court to halt Brexit

Day two: Brexit ship has sailed, government QC tells Article 50 court challenge

Day three: Judge to ‘immediately’ consider landmark Brexit court case