THE legality of Boris Johnson’s signing of the EU Withdrawal Agreement, which his Government now intends to renege on, will be tested in the Northern Irish courts.
An anonymous litigant is seeking a declaration from the High Court in Belfast that the Prime Minister acted in bad faith when signing the agreement, as he did so “without ever intending he should be bound by it”.
Johnson signed the Withdrawal Agreement in January this year, hailing it as a “fantastic moment” and saying it would “bring to an end far too many years of argument and division”.
The UK Government is currently trying to pass its Internal Market Bill, which would give ministers sweeping executive powers and break key protocols around Northern Ireland previously agreed with the EU in that agreement.
The House of Lords voted yesterday to remove the international law-breaking sections of the bill, but the Tories have indicated they will simply reinsert them when given the opportunity.
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The court case accusing Johnson of having acted “in bad faith” when signing the agreement had been brought to the Prime Minister’s attention. However, he did not address any of the core accusations in his response.
The litigant’s lawyer, Patricia Coyle of Harte Coyle Collins, said that as Johnson’s response did not address the allegation, her client could “only conclude that there is no good answer to it”, according to Scottish Legal News.
Coyle said: “The publicly available evidence which my client relies upon in claiming bad faith on the part of the Prime Minister was identified in pre-action correspondence which went to the prime minister on September 19, 2020.
“He did not address this evidence in his response to us. My client can only conclude that there is no good answer to it.
“This supports our client’s argument that the Prime Minister signed the Withdrawal Agreement and Protocol without ever intending he should be bound by it. If that is correct and the court adjudicates so, then his actions were unlawful, insofar as he has frustrated the intention of Parliament.”
The case against Johnson argues that the Prime Minister’s decision to sign the agreement, knowing he would then renege on it, “amounted to an exercise of the royal prerogative for improper purposes, or which was otherwise in bad faith”.
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“Our client’s view is that it is both appropriate and open to the High Court in Belfast to make a declaration to this effect, for a variety of reasons, including that doing so is the most appropriate way to vindicate the rule of law and to ensure that the Prime Minister does not avoid the legal consequences flowing from the alleged illegality of his actions.”
In September 2019, the UK Supreme Court found that Johnson had acted illegally in shutting down Parliament at a time of national crisis, specifically the run-up to the then October 31 Brexit deadline.
Speaking at the time, Joanna Cherry called on Johnson to resign, saying: “The highest court in the United Kingdom has unanimously found that his advice to prorogue this Parliament, his advice given to Her Majesty the Queen, was unlawful.
“His position is untenable and he should have the guts, for once, to do the decent thing and resign.”