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Judge turns down NI Brexit challenge

A High Court Judge in Belfast has dismissed the UK's first legal challenge to Brexit.

Mr Justice Paul Maguire said the implications for Northern Ireland were still uncertain after Prime Minister Theresa May said she would begin exit negotiations with Europe before March.

A cross-party group of politicians had claimed the country should have a veto on an exit and said the Stormont Assembly should have a say on whether to trigger negotiations with Europe.

Raymond McCord, whose son was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries, had a separate Brexit challenge surrounding its impact on the peace process heard alongside that of the politicians at the High Court in Belfast.

Mr Justice Maguire said: "While the wind of change may be about to blow, the precise direction in which it will blow cannot yet be determined so there is a level of uncertainty, as evidenced by the discussion about how the Northern Ireland land border with Ireland was affected by withdrawal from the EU."

He added: "In respect of all issues, the court dismissed the applications."

A Downing Street spokesman welcomed the court's judgment.

"It agrees that we can proceed to trigger Article 50 as planned," he said.

"But I think what's important to stress, one of the concerns that was raised during this court case is that there is no reason to think that the outcome of the referendum will do anything to undermine the rock-solid commitment that the Government has to the settlement that was set out in the Belfast Agreement and to the people of Northern Ireland."


Foster positive about common travel area continuing post-Brexit

First Minister Arlene Foster has said she believes the common travel area between the UK and Ireland can continue to exist post-Brexit.

She was speaking at a press conference following the emergency meeting of the British Irish Council meeting in Cardiff to discuss the impact of the Brexit vote.

Earlier, deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he could not see how a common travel area on the island of Ireland could survive, considering that immigration had been a big issue in those supporting Britain leaving the EU.

However, Ms Foster was more positive about the border situation.

The hard border that we had in the 70s and 80s was there for a completely different reason than for customs and excise, it was because we were dealing with a terrorist threat at that particular point in time. I think it is eminently possible and probable and something that we will very much seek to do to ensure that the common travel area exists in a very real and meaningful way.

– First Minister Arlene Foster

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who was also in attendance, stressed the importance that there was no hard border between the Republic of Ireland and UK.

"It would not be acceptable either south or north that there would be a European Union border running from Dundalk to Derry, it would not be acceptable,” he commented.

“We're not going back to the days of checkpoints, towers and customs and all of that. That would be very retrograde step."

NI Secretary of State James Brokenshire reiterated that he was committed to making sure any border arrangements were as 'soft' as possible.

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