Northern Ireland Green Party's Agnew launches Dublin legal challenge to Brexit process
Northern Ireland Green Party leader Steven Agnew is spearheading a new legal challenge to the Brexit process - this time in the Irish courts.
Mr Agnew said that the aim of the new litigation was to establish whether Westminster could change its mind about leaving the EU, even after Article 50 is triggered.
The leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland is joined by Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales; Green Party MEP for the South East of England, Keith Taylor; and Jolyon Maugham QC, director of the Good Law Project, as litigants in the case.
The proceedings seek a referral to the Court of Justice of the European Union on the question of whether the EU withdrawal process, once it is formally started, can be unilaterally halted by the UK Government without requiring consent from all other 27 EU member states.
Mr Agnew revealed that £70,000 has been crowd-funded from almost 2,000 donors to finance the Dublin action.
More money may be required if - as Mr Agnew anticipates - the Irish courts refer the matter to a higher European court for a decision.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, Mr Agnew presented the Dublin litigation as a means of strengthening the UK's negotiating hand during the process of leaving the EU.
He said: "We did not want to appear to be or be seen to be trying to stop the triggering of Article 50. This is about ensuring that once Article 50 is triggered, that the UK has a stronger negotiating hand - and has options.
"If you go into a negotiation and whether you like the deal or you don't the outcome is the same. What incentive is there for the European Union to give us a deal that we're happy with? Unless we establish that we can reject their deal, then we have no power to negotiate."
Mr Agnew said he felt that even people who had voted to leave would see the importance of his new legal challenge.
He added: "I think those who wanted to leave the EU should welcome this case, because it means that the UK - if we continue to wish to leave - can secure a better deal. At this point in time the EU has all the power.
"If you want to take back control, well, this is actually giving the UK more control."
The new legal challenge in the Dublin courts comes just days after the UK Supreme Court dismissed a case that the UK's devolved Governments must be consulted on the formal triggering of the Brexit process.