Brexit

Northern Ireland group to launch Brexit legal challenge

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and Green Party leader Steven Agnew
Michael McHugh, Press Association

A LEGAL challenge to Brexit is set to be launched in Northern Ireland.

A cross-community group of politicians and human-rights activists whose lawyers have written to Prime Minister Theresa May urging her to consider the north's peace process and other unique requirements before triggering the mechanism to leave the European Union.

A majority in Northern Ireland backed Remain in the June referendum.

Solicitors have threatened to take a judicial review before the High Court in Belfast – and ultimately to Europe's highest court – unless Mrs May addresses legal obligations they say she must meet, including gaining the consent of the Stormont Assembly.

They said: "These obligations include safeguarding the unique requirements of Northern Ireland constitutional law and statute, in particular the statutory recognition of the Belfast-Good Friday Agreement and satisfying the requirements of EU law incorporated into the law of Northern Ireland."

The prime minister and Secretary of State James Brokenshire have been requested to respond within two weeks.

Among those supporting the warning letter are SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, former Sinn Féin education minister John O'Dowd, former justice minister David Ford, Green Party leader Steven Agnew, former PUP leader Dawn Purvis, ex-Equality Commission member and disability rights activist Monica Wilson OBE and the the Committee on the Administration of Justice human-rights group.

They want to ensure the Brexit process complies with the rule of law, takes account of parliamentary sovereignty, protects progress made towards a more peaceful society and accords adequate weight to the democratic will of those in Northern Ireland who voted in the European referendum and in the 1998 poll on the Good Friday Agreement.

The lawyers said parliamentary legislation should authorise the triggering of the Article 50 leave clause and that law should require the consent of theassembly.

They warned if the British government failed to adopt a comprehensive process complying with constitutional requirements they would seek a judicial review and referral of questions surrounding EU law to the Court of Justice of the EU.

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