Crowdfunding appeal launched for protocol legal challenge

Larne

A CROWDFUNDING appeal has been launched for a legal challenge against the Northern Ireland Protocol.

DUP leader Arlene Foster and other unionists from across the UK are proposing judicial review proceedings unless alternative post-Brexit trade arrangements are initiated which secure their consent.

The protocol sees Northern Ireland follow a number of EU trade rules which has led to additional checks on goods arriving from Great Britain.

Unionists have criticised the disruption and described it as a border in the Irish Sea.

In a statement on Thursday, campaigners said legal proceedings to end the protocol have been commenced by a “wide coalition of pro-unionists”.

A full hearing at the High Court in Belfast is expected in May.

Mrs Foster tweeted that the crowdfunding appeal is an opportunity for all who oppose the protocol to “play their part”.

“We cannot allow our United Kingdom to be ripped apart and our UK internal market to be divided in order to protect the single market of the EU,” she wrote.

“When I launched a petition calling for unfettered GB-NI trade, over 100k people joined with us in just over 24hrs, this is another opportunity for everyone who opposes the Protocol to play their part.

“We will work with other Unionists to send a united message to our Government and to free Northern Ireland from the Protocol.

“Whilst the courts is one front in this fight, the UK Government must use all powers at its disposal to immediately remove any barriers to unfettered trade within the United Kingdom.”

Ulster Unionist Party leader Steve Aiken said the protocol “fundamentally undermines the integrity of the United Kingdom, the Belfast Agreement and the principle of consent”.

“As one of the parties that negotiated the agreement, we believe we have to take every political, diplomatic and legal avenue open to us to see the invidious, unequal NI Protocol annulled, because every day we see the very principles on which the Belfast Agreement was created being trampled on by those who claim to put the peace process at the centre of their arguments,” he said.

“We encourage everyone who believes in the Union and in the Belfast Agreement to support this legal case.”

TUV leader Jim Allister, who is also a North Antrim Assembly Member, said: “The protocol annexes Northern Ireland into the EU, leaving us subject to laws we did not make and cannot change.

“For me the challenge and opportunity of this judicial review is to end such vassalage and reunify the United Kingdom by removing the constitutional threat of many of our laws not being made in Belfast or London but in Brussels under foreign aegis and control.

“It is about ‘taking back control’ in a most fundamental way by restoring the key sovereignty principle of being governed only by our own nation’s laws, legislatures and courts.”

“I have joined in these legal proceedings because Northern Ireland’s place as an integral part of the United Kingdom is at stake,” he said.

“Extensive parts of Northern Ireland – much of its economic fabric – have been turned into a colony of the European Union.

“We accept that the Government is trying to mitigate and minimise the effects of the protocol, but that is not enough.

“It does not change the fact that the Government is acting contrary to our constitution, and that is why we have concluded that the only way we can deal with it is by taking legal proceedings.”

Ben Habib, chairman of Unlocked and former London MEP, said: “We must not rest until the protocol is ended. It is vital that all pro-unionists join together in this fight.”

A press release by the campaigners said: “Legal proceedings to end the Protocol have been commenced. This action is being taken by a wide coalition of pro-Unionists committed to doing all we can to fight to protect the integrity of our United Kingdom and to ensure our right to unfettered trade across our sovereign country and between all parts of our Union.

“We cannot allow our United Kingdom to be ripped apart and our UK internal market to be shattered and divided to protect the single market of the EU.

“We are a beautiful and proud United Kingdom, our strength rests on our bond together. We must not allow a foreign institution to impose and rip apart those bonds that bind us together.

“We must stand shoulder to shoulder together to oppose these attempts to fracture the very essence of our Union.

“We are asking all of you that care about Northern Ireland, our Union and our United Kingdom to join us and be part of our campaign by adding your voice and contributing what you can to fight to protect our Union in this legal case.

“We have already had huge support, but we want you to be part of it too. Join with us. Step up and be counted. Protect our Union and join our campaign. www.crowdjustice.com/case/defending-the-union-of-the-uk/

Lord Trimble, former First Minister of Northern Ireland and Former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, said: “I have joined in these legal proceedings because Northern Ireland’s place as an integral part of the United Kingdom is at stake.

“Extensive parts of Northern Ireland – much of its economic fabric – have been turned into a colony of the European Union.

“When the Prime Minister Theresa May sought to open negotiations with the EU to implement the referendum, the EU was adamant that it would only negotiate in certain limited circumstances.

“The EU negotiators insisted on a Protocol to regulate the relationship between the EU and NI, indeed at that time senior EU officials repeatedly said that losing Northern Ireland was the price the UK would have to pay to leave the EU.

“The UK negotiators were unable to get the EU to agree to eliminate the protocol, and the only way our government was able to implement the referendum by leaving was to accept the protocol by way of concession.

“But this concession – the NI Protocol – is a serious breach of the UK’s constitution.

“We accept that the government is trying to mitigate and minimise the effects of the protocol, but that is not enough. It does not change the fact that the government is acting contrary to our constitution, and that is why we have concluded that the only way we can deal with it is by taking legal proceedings.”

The legal action has been lodged in the High Court of Northern Ireland and the next hearing date is the 13th April with an anticipated full hearing of the matter on 13th May 2021.

The crowdfunding campaign is to facilitate wide participation in the legal action, the press release said.

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