The UK Supreme Court has ruled the Northern Ireland Protocol is lawful, rejecting a legal challenge to the Brexit process.
The legality of the contentious trading arrangements has been challenged by a collective of unionists and Brexiteers.
Judge Lord Stephens said in his ruling: “The most fundamental rule of UK constitutional law is that Parliament, or more precisely the Crown in Parliament, is sovereign and that legislation enacted by Parliament is supreme.
“A clear answer has been expressly provided by Parliament in relation to any conflict between the Protocol and the rights in the trade limb of article VI (of the Acts of Union 1800).”
Former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib, one of those who brought the legal challenge against the lawfulness of the Northern Ireland Protocol, said the Supreme Court judgement provided “constitutional clarity” that the Good Friday Agreement was “broken”.
Reacting to the court judgement, Mr Habib told the BBC: “The two key takeaways are that a significant part of the the Acts of Union have been disapplied, contrary to all the various protestations made by parliamentarians.
“And the cross-community consent, which is a cornerstone of the Good Friday Agreement has also been disapplied, in order to get the protocol through.
“We have complete constitutional clarity and that is itself is a victory for ourselves.
“We have just had the Supreme Court confirm there is an Irish Sea border and it was imposed without cross-community consent and that is what we have been arguing for.
“They may have ruled that it has legally done so but effectively the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is broken, the Good Friday Agreement is broken and that is complete constitutional clarity for us.”
Reacting to the judgement, DUP leader Sir Jeffery Donaldson said the protocol represented “an existential threat to the future of Northern Ireland’s place within the Union”.
He said: “A solution to the protocol was never going to be found in the courts, but the cases have served to highlight some of the reasons why unionists have uniformly rejected the protocol.
“The longer the protocol remains, the more it will harm the Union itself.”
He added: “Political progress in Northern Ireland was hard won and is built on the support of unionists and nationalists. Not one unionist MLA or MP supports the protocol.
“The idea that one section of our people will dominate the other and ignore the concerns of unionists is the opposite of powersharing and will never produce durable or balanced outcomes.
“There will be no solid basis for an executive and assembly until the protocol is replaced with arrangements that restore NI’s place in the UK internal market and our constitutional arrangements are respected.”
Arguments were considered by the UK’s highest court at a two-day hearing last year after the Court of Appeal upheld a ruling in Belfast High Court dismissing the legal challenge.
The protocol, which is a key aspect of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, was jointly designed by London and Brussels to keep Ireland’s land border free flowing following the UK’s departure from the EU.
Becoming effective in 2021, the arrangements instead shifted customs and regulatory checks to the Irish Sea and created new red tape on the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, with trade in the region remaining subject to certain EU Single Market rules.
The appellants argue that the legislation passed at Westminster to give effect to the Withdrawal Agreement conflicts with the 1800 Acts of Union that formed the United Kingdom, particularly Article 6 of that statute guaranteeing unfettered trade within the UK.
The legal challenge also contends that the protocol undermines the peace process legislation underpinning Northern Ireland’s powersharing settlement at Stormont – the 1998 Northern Ireland Act.
Press Association – David Young