Dates set for Supreme Court legal challenge

A pan-unionist legal challenge to the NI Protocol has been listed for hearing at the Supreme Court in London.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 16th June 2022, 7:17 am

Justices have allocated two days in November and December to hear arguments in the ongoing legal campaign mounted by a group of politicians, along with separate proceedings brought by a loyalist pastor.

They are appealing decisions reached by courts in Belfast that the post-Brexit trading arrangement is lawful.

Amid widespread unionist opposition to the accord, a coalition involving TUV leader Jim Allister, Baroness Hoey and former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib have sought to have it declared unlawful.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th May 2022 - Northern Ireland Assembly Election Count at Ulster University, Jordanstown TUV Leader Jim Allister Photo by Stephen Hamilton / Press Eye.

A similar case was mounted by the Belfast-based pastor Clifford Peeples.

Last year the High Court in Belfast found that the Withdrawal Agreement Act, which introduced the protocol, conflicts with Article 6 of the Acts of Union 1800, drawn up to ensure equal trade footing between Britain and Ireland.

However, the court ruled that the new legislation overrides older law which cannot obstruct the clear specific will of Parliament.

Those findings were contested on the basis that the Acts of Union has legal supremacy, with no power for the implied repeal of a constitutional statute.

Jim Allister

But in March the Court of Appeal again held that the protocol was held to be lawfully enacted and must take precedence over the centuries-old legislative clause.

The new trade deal was said to subjugate part of the Acts of Union, based on the sovereign will of Parliament.

However, it will now be subjected to further scrutiny by justices at the Supreme Court.

Leave to appeal was granted in both cases, with three legal points of general public importance identified for consideration:

l Did the Court of Appeal err in law by concluding that (a) Article 6 of the Acts of Union did not prevent the UK government from effecting the Withdrawal Agreement and (b) that the European Union Withdrawal Act 2018 lawfully modifies Article 6?

l Did the Court of Appeal err in law by failing to conclude that the modification of Article 6 constitutes a change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland, in conflict with the Northern Ireland Act 1998?

l Did the Court of Appeal err in law by concluding that the protocol lawfully disapplied section 42 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998?

Mr Peeples’ solicitor Ciaran O’Hare revealed that he has been notified that the cases have been listed for hearing on November 30 and December 1 “on an expedited basis”.