August 30, 2019 / 10:50 AM / 20 days ago

Brexit: Northern Irish court sets Sept. 6 for challenge to parliament suspension

BELFAST (Reuters) - A legal challenge seeking to place an interim block on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s order to suspend parliament will be heard in a Northern Irish court next week, a judge said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: An anti-Brexit protester holds a placard outside the Houses of the Parliament in London, Britain August 29, 2019. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

Johnson’s decision this week to suspend parliament for more than a month before Brexit has enraged opponents who have taken to the courts in Edinburgh, Belfast and London to try to stop him.

At a hearing in Belfast’s High Court, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan set Sept. 6 for the presentation of legal argument on the interim injunction that is being sought by a rights activist seeking to have the suspension reversed.

A more substantive case launched by the same activist, Raymond McCord, is due on Sept. 16 against any withdrawal from the European Union without a divorce deal, citing fears that a chaotic Brexit could wreck the Northern Ireland peace process.

McCord’s legal team argued on Thursday that a no-deal Brexit would breach the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to the British-run province and the suspension was both unconstitutional and a threat to the two decades of peace since.

His solicitor, Ciaran O’Hare, also said they would push to have the suspension hearing earlier than Sept. 6.

“The prime minister wants to get his own way without concern for the people of Northern Ireland and the peace process,” McCord, who was also behind a 2016 Northern Ireland challenge to Brexit, told reporters.

McCord’s son was murdered by pro-British loyalist militants in 1997, before the peace deal largely ended three decades of violence between Irish nationalists seeking a united Ireland and pro-British unionists that killed 3,600 people.

Police on both sides of the border between Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland fear the return of any customs posts after Brexit would create a target for the small number of militant groups still active in the province.

A Scottish court earlier on Friday rejected a request to place an interim block on the order to suspend parliament but said it would hear full arguments next week.

Former British Prime Minister John Major also applied on Friday to join legal action to try to block the suspension in a case that will be heard in London on Sept. 5.

Writing by Padraic Halpin in Dublin; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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