November 18, 2016 / 1:39 PM / 3 years ago

Northern Ireland court refers Brexit challenge to UK Supreme Court

Raymond McCord reacts as he speaks to media after departing the High Court in Belfast, Northern Ireland October 28, 2016. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

BELFAST (Reuters) - An attempt by a Northern Ireland activist to block Britain’s exit from the European Union was referred to the Supreme Court on Friday after the case was rejected by Belfast’s High Court.

Belfast’s Court of Appeal on Friday ruled that the contention by rights activist Raymond McCord that the people of Northern Ireland should have sole sovereignty on deciding their future within the EU should be decided by the Supreme Court.

The court heard that a parallel case against Brexit by several members of Northern Ireland’s regional assembly was referred to the Supreme Court earlier this week by a High Court order after an appeal by Northern Ireland’s attorney general.

Britain’s Supreme Court will be asked to rule on whether any provisions of Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace deal mean that an act of parliament is required before Brexit can be triggered and whether the consent of its regional parliament is required, according to the court order.

The Supreme Court is already due to hear an appeal by the British government against a ruling by London’s High Court that parliamentary approval is required to trigger Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty by the end of March next year, starting a 24-month countdown to departure from the bloc.

There are fears that Brexit could undermine the peace accord that ended three decades of bloodshed in Northern Ireland and could lead to the reintroduction of unpopular controls on the border with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member.

Britain’s June 23 vote to leave the EU has stirred political tension among the four nations of the United Kingdom - England and Wales, which voted in a majority to leave the EU, and Northern Ireland and Scotland, which voted to remain.

(Story corrects headline to read Northern Ireland.)

Reporting by Alan Erwin and Ian Graham; Writing by Conor Humphries; editing by Mark Heinrich

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