Belfast’s High Court dismissed a case arguing that Brexit without a withdrawal agreement contravenes Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace accord.
Judge Bernard McCloskey’s 68-page statement said that the argument put forward by three Northern Irish rights campaigners was “… inherently and unmistakably political to be beyond plausible dispute.”
It has often been argued that the three freedoms – the movement of goods, labour, and capital – as well as the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), are ingrained in the Good Friday Agreement. The three plaintiffs argue that a no-deal Brexit would, therefore, violate the agreement.
The British government argued in court that under Article 50 of the EU Treaty the onus for negotiation lies with the European Commission. Judges for Northern Ireland’s Judge Court of Appeal said they will hear an appeal as early as Friday.
The political context of Brexit can catalyse bicommunal tension in Northern Ireland.
According to a poll published on Thursday, 51% of the population of Northern Ireland would now vote for Irish unification if there was a referendum, against 45% that would vote for the union. When the survey asked what do they project will happen over the next decade, 54% predicted a united Ireland.
The prospect of a border poll is part of the Good Friday Agreement.
Significantly, one in 20 unionists said they would opt for Irish unification while a further 6% said they didn’t know how they would vote. More than half of those surveyed think Brexit makes Irish unification a more likely outcome and 51% said they would like to see the UK remain in the EU.