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Brexit: Two-pronged Northern Ireland challenge goes before Supreme Court in London

By John Aston

A claim by a victims' campaigner that the UK cannot quit the European Union without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland is to go before the Supreme Court today.

The highest court in the land is also being asked to overturn a High Court ruling that the Prime Minister must seek MPs' approval to trigger taking the UK out of the EU.

In a decision that infuriated Brexiteers, three senior judges said Theresa May lacked power to use the royal prerogative to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and start the two-year process of negotiating Brexit without the prior authority of Parliament.

But the 11 Supreme Court justices - a record number to sit on an appeal - will also be considering the case brought by victims' campaigner Raymond McCord and four prominent local politicians.

Last month Northern Ireland Attorney General John Larkin QC referred the judicial review brought by MLAs David Ford (Alliance), Colum Eastwood (SDLP), John O'Dowd (Sinn Fein) and Steven Agnew (Greens).

Mr McCord's case was later also granted permission to leapfrog the Court of Appeal and join them in putting their case before justices sitting in London.

The Supreme Court will be considering four specific issues brought by the politicians:

√ Do any provisions of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, read together with the Belfast Agreement and British-Irish Agreement, mean an Act of Parliament is required before Brexit can be triggered?

√ If they do, is the consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly required before the relevant Act of Parliament is passed?

√ If they don't, do any of the same provisions restrict royal prerogative powers to trigger Brexit?

√ Does section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 prevent the prerogative power being exercised in the absence of compliance by the Northern Ireland Office with its equality obligations under that section?

Mr McCord's lawyers posed the same four questions, along with a fifth dealing with the requirement for the consent of the Northern Ireland public.

SDLP leader Mr Eastwood is attending the hearing in London today.

He has just returned from a summit of European political leaders and Heads of State in the Party of European Socialists in Prague, where he pressed the case for EU special status for Northern Ireland in the case of a Brexit.

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