Boris Johnson discusses Northern Ireland protocol
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A haulage company frustrated by the red tape and bureaucracy introduced as part of the Northern Ireland Protocol and DUP North Antrim MP Ian Paisley have launched legal proceedings. They claim the Protocol infringes the economic rights of Northern Ireland citizens.
If the legal action is successful it could force the Government to pay out huge financial settlements in compensation for the disruption to trade caused by the Brexit deal.
Many goods travelling from the British mainland to Northern Ireland are subject to customs checks.
Northern Ireland is still a part of the single market under the Protocol and as a result, products heading across the Irish Sea face extra paperwork.
Solicitor Clive Thorne, who is acting for the claimants, said the next legal stage move would be to formally add a “long queue” of interested companies to the action. A court hearing would then follow, said Mr Thorne.
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“We would say that the Protocol legislation is unlawful because it conflicts with the rights under the Human Rights Act and contained in the European Convention,” he said.
“This very much is a piece of commercial litigation, rather than political or constitutional litigation, whereby businesses in Northern Ireland, and also in Great Britain, have suffered adversity as a result of the framing of the Protocol and the way in which it has become part of United Kingdom law.”
He added: “If the Government is found to have acted unlawfully, then it has opened the door to possible subsequent claims for compensation for the damage suffered.”
The solicitor said the claim has two main arguments based on the impact facing businesses trading between Great Britain, and the Protocol’s implications for ordinary citizens.
Mr Thorne argued those looking to trade with Northern Ireland has seen their business hampered by the introduction of new bureaucracy.
Meanwhile, he said there was no democratic mandate for the Protocol within Northern Ireland.
The legal case comes just the day after a separate legal challenge was launched by former Brexit MEP Ben Habib and prominent Labour Brexiteer Baroness Kate Hoey.
Their legal challenge, supported by the leaders of the three main unionist parties in Northern Ireland, argues the Protocol is unconstitutional because it undermines the Act of Union and the terms of the region’s historic Good Friday peace deal.
The Government has conceded a leave application for a judicial review in the case brought by the Brexiteers and will now be heard in the High Court in Belfast.
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Mr Habib said: “I am delighted the government has conceded that leave should be granted without a preliminary hearing.
“It’s doing so is an acknowledgement of the integrity of the grounds of our case.
“I know I speak for all of us, the complainants and our supporters when I say we are looking forward to having our day in court.”
The High Court is expected to hear the case in May.
Mr Paisley said he hoped the legal challenge launched today would complement the action taken by Brexiteers earlier in the week.
He said: “It’s very much looking at the commercial damage that’s being done to various commercial interests and the various sectors within the economy and it has to attack the Protocol from that point of view, so that’s why it’s different but it’s very complementary.
“I think it is important that as many people come together and demonstrate to the Government that this has to be challenged constitutionally, politically, societally and economically.”
He added: “Potentially I think this will end up being a multimillion-pound legal claim on behalf of several companies for loss against the Government.”
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