The imposition of a hard border in Northern Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit would not breach human rights, the high court in Belfast has ruled.
Lord Bernard McLoskey dismissed claims leaving the European Union without a deal on 31 October would damage the Northern Ireland peace process in a judgment on Thursday (12 September).
The hearing involved three cases, including high-profile victims rights campaigner Raymond McCord – whose son was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries in 1997 – as well as Jamie Waring, and a third woman referred to only as JR83.
Their cases hinged on the argument that creating a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would undermine agreements relating to cross-border cooperation between the UK and Ireland, including the Good Friday agreement.
JR83 also argued a no-deal Brexit would be unlawfully discriminatory – having a disproportionate “detrimental effect” on the Irish citizens who live in Northern Ireland border regions – and that it would also breach her right to life, freedom from torture, and privacy, as protected by the Convention of Human Rights.
A mural in Derry, Northern Ireland. Image Credit: Flickr.
Nevertheless, Justice McLoskey said as part of a 67-page judgement the claimant had failed to meet the required threshold of evidence to prove a no-deal Brexit would present “a real and immediate risk” to her life.
“Her case is replete with possibilities and uncertainties,” McLoskey said. “In common with the remainder of the population, she simply does not know what the post-withdrawal future holds for the land border on the island of Ireland.
“Properly analysed, what she postulates is a vague, speculative risk to her life in currently unknown and unpredictable future scenarios.”
The arguments a no-deal Brexit would breach her right to freedom from torture and respect for her privacy suffered the same “evidential frailties,” McLoskey ruled.
He also said that, in arguing no-deal would breach the right to freedom from discrimination, the claimant failed to provide the “carefully focussed and sophisticated analysis” required to prove Irish citizens would be disproportionately hurt compared to other UK populations.
This ruling comes a day after the government was forced to release secret documents detailing its “reasonable worst case planning assumptions” in the event of no-deal Brexit on 31 October.
The five-page document, given the code name Operation Yellowhammer, contains 20 paragraphs. On Northern Ireland, it warns there will be “significant pressure” to find arrangements managing the border within days or weeks because of barriers to trade in the event of no-deal.
Yellowhammer also warns of disruption to key sectors and job losses, which are likely to result in protests and direct action with roadblocks.
“Price and other differentials are likely to lead to a growth in illegitimate activity,” the paper states.
“This will be particularly severe in border communities where both criminals and dissident groups already operate with greater threat and impunity.”
What to know more? Why not read:
- Five ‘Serious’ Human Rights Threats Posed By Brexit
- Civil rights group Liberty threatens legal action if PM Boris Johnson flouts no-deal Brexit law
- What does suspending parliament mean for our rights?