Northern Ireland’s Brexit Protocol has not “shattered” Northern Ireland’s constitutional status within the UK, as some trade unionists have argued, a government attorney told a Belfast court.
Tony McGleenan QC opened his defense of the protocol against a legal challenge by a group of unionist politicians, including Traditional Unionist Voice Chairman Jim Allister, former Labor MP Kate Hoey and former Brexit MP Ben Habib.
In one landmark case, they have denied that the Withdrawal Agreement and Act of Parliament changed Northern Ireland’s constitutional status and clashed with the Union’s 1800 laws.
McGleenan rejected these arguments. Speaking to senior judges, he said: “Northern Ireland’s constitutional status has not changed.”
He added: “The suggestion that the union has broken down is, as we say, unsustainable.”
The Northern Ireland Protocol came into force on January 1st and provides controls and controls on the movement of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. This is because Northern Ireland remains in the UK as part of the Brexit compromise to avoid a border on the island of Ireland, but is also in the EU internal market for trade reasons, which means that when goods are imported, EU customs and – Standard controls apply to region.
Regarding the progress of the UK’s exit from the EU, McGleenan argued that the political costs of the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Northern Ireland section, were known to the parties involved in the case, with two expressing strong support for it. It had been “the subject of debate for three years” and its political power was expressed by at least two of the parties involved in the case, Habib and Hoey.
The defendants have argued that the protocol was illegal because it contravened Union law and the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. The Supreme Court dismissed their first appeal this summer, and they are now appealing the verdict in an expedited manner.
John Larkin QC said on behalf of the complainants that references to the debate in parliament and expressions of support or otherwise for Brexit were a “distraction” as legally only “the words of the statutes” of parliament counted.
On Monday, the judges were informed that the Union Acts had legal supremacy over the protocol. Larkin told them: “The Protocol could not be validly drawn up because it contradicted a provision of the United Kingdom Constitution – that is, Article 6 of the Union Act.”
On Tuesday, McGleenan challenged the allegation, saying, “The argument that the Act of Union has interpretative primacy; [that] it dominates later provisions, we say that is wrong, ”he said.
He said that even if there were conflicts between the 1800 Act and the Protocol, they were “legally irrelevant” as Section 7 (a) of the Withdrawal Act allowed the Protocol to “continue to operate in domestic law.”
The case continues.