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Northern Ireland's Attorney General John Larkin eyes role in landmark court efforts to block Brexit

By Alan Erwin

Northern Ireland's Attorney General could become involved in landmark legal bids to stop the UK's departure from the European Union.

John Larkin QC has set out his view that the joint challenges to Brexit appear to raise an issue of devolution - a potential gateway for him to feature in proceedings.

Separate cases have been brought by the father of a loyalist paramilitary murder victim and a cross-party group of MLAs.

Raymond McCord, and politicians including Alliance leader David Ford, his SDLP and Green Party counterparts Colum Eastwood and Steven Agnew, and Sinn Fein MLA John O'Dowd, are seeking to judicially review the Government's move towards leaving the EU.

They claim it would be unlawful to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the formal process for confirming the UK's exit, without first securing Parliamentary authorisation.

Similar legal challenges are already under way in London.

All issues and implications specific to Northern Ireland - including claims that leaving the EU will inflict damage on the peace process - are to be dealt with in a hearing at the High Court in Belfast next month.

But it emerged yesterday that the Attorney General has written to the parties indicating his belief the cases raise a devolution issue around constitutional arrangements.

The judge hearing the challenges, Mr Justice Maguire, will now have to decide whether to issue a formal devolution notice.

If he does so, Mr Larkin, chief legal adviser to the Executive, can then become involved.

The judge is expected to rule on the point following a preliminary hearing next week where he will also confirm the scope of the hearings in Belfast.

At a review in the High Court yesterday lawyers confirmed they were still in dispute over some of the issues specific to Northern Ireland.

Mr McCord's legal team contend Brexit will undermine the UK's domestic and international treaty obligations under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

The campaigner, whose son Raymond jnr was murdered by the UVF in north Belfast in 1997, is taking the case amid concerns that European peace money which goes towards victims of the Troubles may be discontinued.

The Assembly Members, backed by representatives of the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland, are also contesting the legality of the Brexit process.

Belfast Telegraph


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