Belfast Telegraph

PM facing potential legal challenge over Brexit deal’s ‘Irish Sea border’

Loyalist activist Jamie Bryson claims Boris Johnson’s agreement with the EU threatens his right to be British.

Jamie Bryson had launched legal proceedings against the Prime Minister
Jamie Bryson had launched legal proceedings against the Prime Minister

By David Young, PA

The Prime Minister is facing potential legal action over his Brexit deal’s plans for trade and regulatory checks in the Irish Sea.

Loyalist activist Jamie Bryson has issued a pre-action letter to Boris Johnson, accusing him of creating an economic barrier between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

Mr Bryson, from Co Down, asserts that the arrangements threaten his right to identify as British.

The proposed withdrawal treaty will see Northern Ireland follow single market rules on goods and act as a point of entry to the EU customs union.

Mr Bryson claims the terms of the deal breach the Good Friday Agreement and threaten peace and stability in Northern Ireland.

He further alleges that it contravenes his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The letter demands that the Government withdraws its Withdrawal Agreement Bill from Parliament and takes no further steps to create a frontier down the Irish Sea.

If those undertakings are not forthcoming by midday on Wednesday, Mr Bryson will initiate judicial review proceedings, and seek leave for a full hearing into the matter.

On Monday, Mr Bryson was among loyalists who gathered in east Belfast for a meeting to discuss their response to a deal they have called the “Betrayal Act”.

His pre-action letter to Mr Johnson, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith, reads: “The applicant is gravely concerned with the Prime Minister’s eleventh hour retreat from previously stated policy that Her Majesty’s Government would not allow the creation of a border in the Irish Sea.

“The applicant asserts that the deal reached with the EU 27 member states is an affront to this country’s constitutional sovereignty and its ability to determine its own in country movement and trade.”

Mr Bryson claims the deal offends the 1998 peace treaty in Northern Ireland on two grounds, both related to consent.

Mr Bryson asserts that the Good Friday/Belfast agreement requires that the consent of the people of Northern Ireland is required before any constitutional change in the region.

While the Stormont Assembly has been given a say on the post-Brexit arrangements, MLAs will not have a vote ahead of their introduction, only at the end of an initial four-year period of their operation.

Mr Bryson also objects to that vote being conducted on the basis of a straight majority – and not using the Assembly’s parallel consent mechanisms that require a majority of unionists and a majority of nationalists for change to be approved.

The pre-action letter claims the terms of the deal were unconstitutional under Common Law and breached the European Convention on Human Rights.

“The applicant asserts that the terms of this agreement will act oppressively against the people of Northern Ireland and are unlawfully discriminatory,” it read.

The letter added: “The applicant asserts that the measures are offensive to him as a unionist in Northern Ireland as they fundamentally undermine his position with the Union and prevent him from enjoying the right to be treated equally as an equal partner with the people who reside in Great Britain.

“The applicant asserts that this threatens his right to self-identify as British in any meaningful way in circumstances where he will be treated for all relevant purposes as separate and Irish.

“Lastly, just as a hard border on the island of Ireland was seen to be a threat to peace and stability in Northern Ireland, the applicant asserts that this threat also results from placing a hard border in the Irish Sea.

“The applicant asserts that these proposed arrangements threaten the respect and equality of the unionist community and create an obvious threat to the peace process.”

PA

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