Victims campaigner mounts legal bid to stop PM forcing through no-deal Brexit

Victims campaigner Raymond McCord at Belfast High Court in January 2019.' Photo: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Victims campaigner Raymond McCord at Belfast High Court in January 2019.' Photo: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
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A victims campaigner is mounting a legal challenge aimed at preventing Prime Minister Boris Johnson suspending parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit.

Raymond McCord issued proceedings at the High Court in Belfast, claiming any such move to ensure the UK leaves the EU on October 31 without a withdrawal agreement would be an “unconstitutional attack on the people of Northern Ireland”.

He is seeking a ruling that Mr Johnson cannot bypass MPs by proroguing parliament.

Exiting the EU on those terms would go against the Good Friday Agreement and inevitably lead to the demise of the United Kingdom, Mr McCord’s lawyers claim.

They are now pressing for the case to be heard early next month.

A similar challenge by a cross-party group of MPs and peers has begun in a Scottish court.

Mr McCord, whose son Raymond Jr was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries at Ballyduff Quarry in Newtownabbey in November 1997, has taken legal action against Brexit before.

In 2016 the Belfast man claimed that the Good Friday peace accord gave the people of Northern Ireland sovereignty to decide on their future.

Ultimately the Supreme Court held that the 1998 Agreement covered the region’s place in the UK, not the European Union.

Now the campaigner is seeking a judicial review amid speculation that Mr Johnson could try to get around opposition from MPs to a no-deal Brexit by proroguing, or shutting down, parliament.

The Prime Minister has pledged the UK will leave the EU on October 31 “do or die”.

Mr McCord’s solicitor, Ciaran O’Hare of McIvor Farrell, said he wrote to Mr Johnson last month seeking an undertaking that he would not suspend the Commons.

With no such assurance provided, proceedings were issued against the Prime Minister and UK Government.

Papers lodged in court claim it would be unconstitutional and an abuse of power to prorogue parliament in order to ensure the UK departs the EU by the end of October.

Any central change to the constitutional arrangements must be brought about by parliament and cannot be implemented by government ministers alone, Mr McCord’s lawyers contend.

They also want a declaration that a withdrawal without an agreement would be contrary to the Northern Ireland peace process.

Outside court Mr O’Hare said: “Mr McCord believes that a no-deal Brexit will be an unconstitutional attack upon the good people of Northern Ireland and will inevitably lead to the demise of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

“It is unconstitutional for the Government and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to take steps which are clearly not in the national interest at the enormous expense, hardship and suffering of the people of Northern Ireland, an equal partner in the Union.”