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Larkin tells Supreme Court 'there's nothing in Northern Ireland law to stop triggering of Brexit'

Top lawyers - including Northern Ireland's Attorney General - have locked horns in the Supreme Court over whether Government ministers can use the royal prerogative to trigger Brexit.

The legal battle follows a landmark High Court ruling that ministers do not have the prerogative powers necessary to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and start the two-year process of negotiating Brexit without the prior authority of Parliament.

Brexit Secretary David Davis is asking 11 Supreme Court justices - a record number to sit on any case - to rule the High Court judges erred in law.

During yesterday's hearing, Lord Keen QC, Advocate General for Scotland, told the court it was perfectly clear that the royal prerogative applied to all parts of the UK and its use was a matter for Westminster.

John Larkin QC, Attorney General for Northern Ireland, agreed that the triggering of Article 50 by the Government fell within the royal prerogative. Stormont's chief legal adviser said there is no provision in Northern Ireland law that "purports to limit, or has the effect of limiting, the powers of the UK Government in international affairs".

"There is no provision of the 1998 (Northern Ireland) Act, nor any part of the Belfast Agreement, nor the British-Irish Agreement which, however they are constructed and taken apart singly or collectively, which imposes any constitutional requirement, the word used in the claimant's case, which the UK Government must satisfy before giving notice under Article 50," he said. Later, he added: "Plainly the Northern Ireland Act 1998 can only be amended by or under another Act of Parliament, and we say simply that notifying the European Council under Article 50 will amend not a comma or a full stop of the 1998 Act."

Meanwhile, Theresa May has committed to publishing a Brexit plan before beginning the process of leaving the EU as part of a compromise in which MPs will back her timetable for pulling out.

Faced with a revolt, the Prime Minister allowed up to 40 rebellious Tory backbenchers to back Labour demands for her to set out Britain's negotiating strategy before triggering Brexit. In return, most are expected to vote for a compromise Government amendment in the Commons today, which states that Mrs May should invoke Article 50 by April to start the process of leaving the EU.

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