Northern Ireland news

Ben Habib will meet protocol challenge court costs if crowdfund fails to hit £150K target

Former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib

THE MULTI-millionaire backer of a legal challenge against the Irish Sea border has said he will meet any shortfall in court costs himself if a crowdfunding bid fails to reach its target.

An online appeal to meet the costs of the case against the Northern Ireland Protocol was launched in March by Ben Habib, a former Brexit Party MEP who is spearheading the legal challenge alongside TUV leader Jim Allister and ex-Labour MP Baroness Kate Hoey.

The legal challenge, counsel for which is being provided by former Stormont Attorney General John Larkin QC, is also supported by the DUP and Ulster Unionists.

Its four-day hearing is due to begin this Friday, with the court's ruling expected next month.

However, with less than a fortnight to go until it closes, the crowdfunding effort is £70,000 short of its £150,000 target.

But Mr Habib told The Irish News he wasn't concerned by any shortfall and said the funds exceeded what was needed for the High Court challenge.

"I think if we win this, which I'm confident we will, and the government doesn't appeal then we don't need 150 grand – we've got more than enough cash already," he said.

"If the government appeals then there'll be a huge weight of feeling and the money will flood in."

The multi-millionaire chief executive of First Property Group plc, a commercial property investment and fund management company, said in the event of the crowdfunding target not being met, he would pay the costs himself.

Mr Habib said he could see "absolutely no basis" on which the legal challenge would fail.

"That may sound ridiculous but I've been through the various arguments that John Larkin has assembled – the government isn't just wrong substantively, it's also wrong technically," he said.

"It's quite rare to get a position on an issue where the opponent is just so patently in the wrong. They have breached the Northern Ireland Act 1998, the Act of Union 1800, it's breached the Belfast Agreement, the Article 50 process of leaving the European Union the European Convention on Human Rights. They've trodden over so many aspects of acts of parliament, of international treaties – it's extraordinary."

The former Brexit Party MEP said that if the legal challenge was successful, he couldn't see how the protocol could remain in place or Boris Johnson could continue on as as prime minister.

"If the court finds that the prime minister has undermined the constitution of the union of the United Kingdom that will be a huge finding," Mr Habib.

"Politicians are underestimating the ramifications of what will happen if we are successful. I don't think it's a tenable position to have a prime minister who is found to have undermined the constitution of the country."

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news