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Victims' campaigner says enough has been done to prevent N Ireland exit from EU

Published 06/10/2016

Campaigners outside Belfast's High Court
Campaigners outside Belfast's High Court
Raymond McCord at Belfast's High Court for the legal challenge to Brexit

Enough has been done to stop Northern Ireland exiting the European Union, a victims' campaigner who took the Government to court said.

A case at Belfast High Court challenging Prime Minister Theresa May's ability to trigger Brexit negotiations is awaiting the outcome of related legal action in Great Britain before judgement is delivered.

On Thursday a lawyer claimed Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire was not properly informed about the implications for the country.

Raymond McCord, whose son Raymond McCord Jr was murdered by the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) in north Belfast in 1997, went to court over concerns European support for Troubles victims may end.

Afterwards he said: "I believe that enough has been done for us to stop Brexit, for Northern Ireland not to exit out of Europe."

A cross-community group of politicians and human rights campaigners was also involved in the legal bid to ensure devolved decision-makers at the Stormont Assembly are consulted before Brexit and protect peace process guarantees enshrined in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which largely ended republican and loyalist violence.

Some 56% of Northern Irish voters backed Remain but some unionist-dominated areas supported Leave. The largest party in Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionists, campaigned for an exit.

Mr McCord added: "After this morning's legal arguments I am optimistic that our case will be upheld."

He said a barrister for the Government claimed the "ship had sailed" on Brexit.

"It was quite clear this morning that it has not sailed and it will not sail until Article 50 is invoked."

The Prime Minister has said she will invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by March, beginning formal negotiations on an exit with European partners covering maintenance of the single market, freedom of movement and other issues.

David Scoffield QC, a barrister for the politicians challenging Brexit, said the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) must take a position on whether withdrawal from the EU is good or bad for Northern Ireland and make that view known to the Westminster Government.

"Before they do so they should appropriately appraise themselves of the effect that would have.

"It is a matter of concern to us. We are told the Secretary of State has not provided any advice on this issue."

He added: "It is his role to speak for Northern Ireland interests in this process and to do so he must be properly informed."

Tony McGleenan QC, who represented the Northern Ireland Secretary, said there was no impediment to the Northern Ireland Assembly considering the issue and communicating its view to the Westminster Government.

Northern Ireland aspects of Brexit, including the role of the devolved legislature at Stormont and the part played by European directives both sides of the Irish border, have been fully outlined before the court but it may reconvene at a later date, once cases in Great Britain relating to Brexit are dealt with, lawyers for the applicants said.

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