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No-deal Brexit 'would mean chaos for Northern Ireland'

Michael McHugh/PA Wire

By Michael McHugh, PA

A no-deal Brexit would create chaos for Northern Ireland, a lawyer for a victims campaigner has said.

Raymond McCord has launched a legal challenge, claiming Prime Minister Boris Johnson's threat to leave the EU on October 31, with or without an agreement, is unlawful.

His barrister, Ronan Lavery QC, praised the EU for its role in underpinning the peace process.

He said: "To leave without a withdrawal agreement would create chaos and economic misery and a real threat to the peace process in Northern Ireland - it would be madness."

Mr McCord's legal team began a judicial review at the High Court in Belfast on Friday.

His son, Raymond McCord Jnr, was murdered by loyalists from the Ulster Volunteer Force in North Belfast in 1997.

He has repeatedly voiced concerns about the impact of Brexit on the peace process.

All-island co-operation deepened following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which largely ended the conflict.

Campaigners are opposed to the creation of a hard Irish border after Brexit, which senior police officers believe could provide an opportunity for dissident republicans.

Mr Lavery said Northern Ireland was trying to move forward on a cohesive and non-tribal basis and was a model for what could be achieved when people put aside their differences.

He added: "The EU is a peace project."

He said the EU withdrawal process should serve the interests of the people of Northern Ireland.

"Generous means generous to the people of Northern Ireland; it cannot mean generous to the pursuit of English nationalism, it can only be something which serves the people of Northern Ireland."

He claimed there was no specific provision for leaving without a deal.

The barrister said the next step after the rejection of the Withdrawal Agreement by Parliament was for a statement to be made by the Government about how it proposed to proceed and making the policy clear.

Instead, he said, the policy was having to be divined from statements to the media as he scrutinised the legislation surrounding Brexit.

"Our very simple proposition is that, when you take this piece of legislation, nothing sanctioned or authorised the executive (government) to take the drastic step of leaving the EU without a deal.

"That needs to be expressly sanctioned by Parliament and it has not been.

"Any withdrawal is premised upon a deal."

He said there was a unique challenge to the island of Ireland.