Brexiteers Ben Habib and Kate Hoey have decided to join forces with Northern Irish First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster and other major Unionists to launch a legal attack that is focused on forcing a judicial review of Northern Ireland protocol.
Speaking on the reason why the filing was necessary, Mr Habib said it was now time for the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to take decisive action to deal with the problem “once and for all”, rather than “kicking the can down the road.”
The controversial rules are apparently targeting to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland – but critics including Mrs Foster’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said the end result is a border down the Irish Sea as a result of additional rules on goods being moved to and from the British mainland.
The decision follows after the UK government refused to respond to a letter before action which was sent on February 19. Northern Ireland-based solicitors Nelson-Singleton yesterday tweeted, “We have today issued leave proceedings seeking Judicial Review of the imposition implementation and legality of the Northern Ireland Protocol.”
Former Brexit Party MEP Mr Habib confirmed that he, Mrs Hoey, Mr Trimble, Mrs Foster, MLA and barrister Jim Allister, and Steve Aitken, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, were signatories to the legal move, which has been lodged with the High Court in Northern Ireland.
Mr Habib, who said the court must now decide whether or not to hear the case, or not told newsmen, “The Northern Ireland Protocol exemplifies better than anything the deterioration in the courage, and confidence in themselves and our country, of our so-called leaders in Westminster.
“That is why we, a coalition of pro-unionists, including the First Minister of Northern Ireland and Lord Trimble (the Nobel Prize-winning architect of the Belfast Agreement), have been forced to take legal action against the government.
“In doing so we aim to protect the union of the United Kingdom where they have so failed.”
Mr Habib also said the Protocol had never been required, describing it as “nonsense” that a customs border on the island of Ireland would breach the 1998 Belfast Agreement, also referred to as the Good Friday Agreement.
“There is already a border on the island and the Belfast Agreement confirmed its existence. Theresa May and her cohort of Remainers allowed the EU and Ireland falsely to weaponise the border issue and gave into their not-so-subtle threat of violence,” he explained.
Speaking about the Prime Minister’s performance so far, Mr Habib said, “Boris Johnson has not been any better. He did not challenge the false narrative, reaffirmed it and put a border down the Irish Sea, leaving Northern Ireland behind.
“Even though writing in the Telegraph on September 12 last year he confessed he had agreed the Protocol with one arm tied behind his back and that it threatened the fabric of the country, he nevertheless implemented it.”
He said he first called for the repudiation of the Protocol on March 7, 2020 at a speech he gave to the Bruges Group think tank, and had in the past commented on numerous occasions, including one article in which he accused Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove of misleading the Lords EU Select Committee on the subject.
Mr Habib said, “The Protocol was a brewing constitutional crisis which has now come home to roost. It does not work at a constitutional or practical level. The government is caught between a rock and a hard place.
“Loyalists have, in response, suspended their adherence to the Belfast Agreement; businesses and consumers in Northern Ireland are up in arms unable to access goods from Great Britain; the EU has refused to agree on the extension of grace periods and is now taking legal action against the UK, and we are taking our own action against the government.”
Revisiting Boris Johnson’s role, Habib said, “The Prime Minister needs to act. He cannot kick this can down the road. The problem will only get worse with time. Whatever he does now, the political ramifications will be big but inaction would be worse.
“He needs to decide if he will side with the EU or with the UK. It is obvious that the right thing is for him to act to protect the union of the United Kingdom and its people. He must summon up the courage to ditch the Protocol.”