The Brexit protocol in Northern Ireland did not “shatter” Northern Ireland’s constitutional status in the UK, as some trade unionists have argued, a government lawyer said in a Belfast court.
Tony McGleenan QC was opening his defense of the protocol against a legal challenge brought by a group of Unionist politicians including Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister, former Labor MP Kate Hoey and former Brexit MEP Ben Habib.
In a landmark case, they disputed that the Withdrawal Agreement and Act of Parliament altered Northern Ireland’s constitutional status and conflicted with the Acts of Union of 1800.
McGleenan rejected these arguments. He told senior magistrates: âThere has been no change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. “
He added: “The suggestion that there has been a breakdown of the union is, let’s say, not lasting.”
The Northern Ireland Protocol entered into force on January 1 and imposes checks and controls on goods passing through Great Britain to Northern Ireland. Indeed, as part of the Brexit compromise to avoid a border on the island of Ireland, Northern Ireland remains in the UK but is also part, for commercial purposes, of the EU single market. , which means that EU customs and normative controls still apply to goods entering the Region.
Reviewing the unfolding of the UK’s departure from the EU, McGleenan argued that the political cost of the Withdrawal Agreement, including the section on Northern Ireland, was known to parties involved in the case, two of them expressing strong support for it. It had been “subject to debate for three years” and its political force was expressed by at least two of the parties involved in the case, Habib and Hoey.
Those handling the case have argued that the protocol is illegal because it conflicts with the Acts of Union and the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. The High Court dismissed their first challenge this summer and they are appealing of this verdict in an expedited case.
John Larkin QC, for the appellants, said references to debate in parliament and expressions of support or not for Brexit were a “distraction” because legally only “words from the statutes” of parliament counted.
On Monday, the judges learned that the Acts of Union had legal supremacy over the protocol. Larkin told them: âThe protocol could not be validly made because it conflicts with a provision of the constitution of the United Kingdom, namely Article 6 of the Acts of Union.
On Tuesday, McGleenan challenged this claim, saying, âThe argument that the Act of Union has interpretive supremacy; [that] it dominates subsequent arrangements, we say that is wrong, âhe said.
He said that although there were conflicts between the 1800 law and the protocol, they were “legally irrelevant” because section 7 (a) of the Withdrawal Law allowed the protocol “to continue to have effect in domestic law â.
The case continues.