September 10, 2019 / 10:19 AM / 7 days ago

Northern Irish court to make no-deal Brexit ruling on Thursday

FILE PHOTO: Pro-Brexit and anti-Brexit demonstrators display their placards as they protest outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

BELFAST (Reuters) - Belfast’s High Court is to rule on Thursday on the legality of a British exit from the European Union without a withdrawal agreement after an activist argued such a move would not be compatible with Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace accord.

Rights campaigner Raymond McCord, one of three people taking the case, said he was hopeful the judge would refer it to the British Supreme Court.

“I will provide the reserve judgement of the court on Thursday morning,” said Judge Bernard McCloskey, who also heard arguments that a no-deal Brexit is not provided for in existing legislation.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said Britain must leave the EU on Oct. 31 whether or not it secures a deal on an orderly exit.

A lawyer representing Johnson’s government on Monday said under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, the obligation to negotiate is on Brussels rather than the member state. British legislation in 2017 and 2018 “assumes but does not require a Withdrawal Agreement,” said the lawyer, Tony McGleenan.

The case is one of a series across the United Kingdom challenging Johnson’s plans. The Supreme Court is due to hear an appeal on Sept. 17 over legal challenges to his decision to suspend parliament for five weeks.

Rights activist McCord said he was positive about the prospects of the Northern Ireland challenge and wanted it to be joined to the Supreme Court appeal.

“We go Thursday with a positive attitude,” he told Reuters. “I believe very strongly that the case needs to be heard in the Supreme Court in London along with the two other cases from England and Scotland.”

Lawmakers who are concerned about the economic fallout from a no-deal Brexit have voted to force Johnson to seek a delay to avoid leaving without an agreement, but he has said that he will not countenance an extension.

Reporting by Amanda Ferguson and Noel McAdam; Writing by Conor Humphries; Editing by Catherine Evans and Andrew Cawthorne

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