NI Attorney General: “Article 50 trigger – will ‘amend not a comma or a full stop of the 1998 Act’.”

As with the Belfast High Court, so with the UK Supreme Court…  NI Attorney General John Larkin has been repeating the argument.  From the BBC text coverage from the Supreme Court

Northern Ireland’s attorney general, John Larkin, is continuing to make his case that none of the legislative or constitutional arrangements underpinning devolution should stand in the way of the UK government triggering Article 50.

The 1998 Northern Ireland Act, which set up the NI Assembly and NI executive, made no mention of the UK’s EU membership or gave special protection to Northern Ireland in respect of this continuing, Mr Larkin says.

He says the decision to notify the EU of the UK’s intention to leave – the so-called Article 50 trigger – will “amend not a comma or a full stop of the 1998 Act”.

As he prepares to cite a number of sections of the Act to back up his point, president Lord Neuberger intervenes to ask whether this is strictly necessary, saying he realises the time available to the NI politician is “attenuated” anyway.

Mr Larkin says he agrees and summarises his position: “Can I simply say the claims that these (provisions) expressly or by necessary implication dislodged the prerogative is defeated by a simple reading of those provisions.”

And from the Guardian’s version

The attorney general for Northern Ireland, John Larkin, is appearing because of legal challenges in Belfast arguing that Northern Ireland has its own constitution consisting of the Northern Ireland Act and the Good Friday Agreement and so they are sovereign on constitutional change. The case was joined to the supreme court hearing and Larkin is arguing that the Good Friday peace agreement has nothing to do with EU membership.

Are the Northern Ireland government parties listening…

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  • NMS

    But after the UK leaves, the preferential treatment granted to UK citizens over EU citizens under Article 2 of the Irish Constitution may be found to be inimical to European treaties. European Treaties sit above the Irish Constitution in importance.

    While the internal legislation of the UK, is the UK’s business, the granting of preferential rights over the rights of EU citizens living in Ireland, will remain a matter for the European Courts.

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    Given Larkin’s record of late, this statement doesn’t exactly mean much. When was the last time he was on the winning side of a legally-tested argument…?

  • Belfast High Court in October this year. With the very same argument.

  • Korhomme

    The Executive is in two minds over Brexit.

    Who then instructed the AG? Himself?

  • johnny lately

    ” will amend not a comma or a full stop of the 1998 Act”.

    A Brexit might not change a coma or a full stop of the 1998 Northern Ireland Act but for those Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland the very real prospect of a hard border will deny those same Irish citizens their right to freedom of movement internally within Ireland.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Let’s see …

    Defend Brexit on behalf of Northern Ireland regardless of the referendum results here … DUP

    Doing it so incompetently … Sinn Féin.

    I’m still confused.

  • Korhomme

    Ha! Very apt, and made me chuckle!

  • Korhomme

    John Crace’s sketches in the Guardian are always amusing. Here’s what he says about our AG:

    Sensing that the appeal might be running away from the government, the
    attorney general for Northern Ireland, John Larkin, went for the nuclear
    option. He dropped his bundles, lost his place to deliver one of the
    more hapless performances ever witnessed by the supreme court. He rushed
    straight out of court as soon as his 45-minutes was up, desperate not
    to catch anyone’s eye. Still, his job was done. By making himself appear
    so useless, he might just have made Eadie and Keen look a little

  • eamoncorbett

    Isn’t his job advising the Assembly on the legal issues with regard to Brexit , not so much expressing an opinion , but I do agree with Johnny Lately’s position that Brexit will have an adverse effect no matter what the legal eagles say or do.

  • eamoncorbett

    Are you saying that an Irish passport holder from Newry residing in Newry might not be granted the same rights as an Irish citizen from Dublin residing in Dublin when the new arrangements come into play . I’ve been asking that question for a while now and have been rebuffed by many saying citizenship is citizenship full stop but when I asked if for instance Mike Pence whose grandfather was from Sligo and therefore qualified for Irish citizenship could also be an EU citizen , I did not get very many enlightened answers.

  • eireanne3

    compare and contrast his performance with lord pannick who came after him!!

  • Korhomme

    I thought so too; I’m not at all sure what he’s doing. Seems to be some sort of lone warrior.

  • Reader

    eamoncorbett: I’ve been asking that question for a while now and have been rebuffed by many saying citizenship is citizenship full stop but when I asked if for instance Mike Pence whose grandfather was from Sligo and therefore qualified for Irish citizenship could also be an EU citizen , I did not get very many enlightened answers.
    The problem was with the question…
    There isn’t really any such thing as EU citizenship; the important thing is to be a citizen of an EU member state. That won’t change on Brexit unless the EU get really prescriptive in an area where it never previously paid any attention.

  • file

    What preferential treatment do you see in Article 2 of the Constitution for UK citizens? Here is Article 2:

    it is the entitlement and birthright of every person born in the island of ireland, which includes its islands and seas, to be part of the irish nation. that is also the entitlement of all persons otherwise qualified in accordance with law to be citizens of ireland. furthermore, the irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage.

  • file

    Here is what the Maastricht Treaty says about your non-existent European Citizenship:


    One of the major innovations established by the Treaty is the creation of European citizenship over and above national citizenship. Every citizen who is a national of a Member State is also a citizen of the Union. This citizenship vests new rights in Europeans, viz.:

    the right to circulate and reside freely in the Community;

    the right to vote and to stand as a candidate for European and municipal elections in the State in which he or she resides;

    the right to protection by the diplomatic or consular authorities of a Member State other than the citizen’s Member State of origin on the territory of a third country in which the state of origin is not represented;

    the right to petition the European Parliament and to submit a complaint to the Ombudsman.

  • Dan

    What a load of nonsense.

  • “the very real prospect of a hard border…”

    No, it’s not.

  • “Isn’t his job advising the Assembly on the legal issues with regard to Brexit”

    No. Try again.

  • Croiteir

    told yes this ages ago but ye are all in denial

  • He has an individual agency.

    Faced with this particular NI Executive that would be a benefit for any office holder.

    Educate yourself on the matter.

  • Don’t rely on Wikipedia.

    Here’s what the European Commission website has to say

    Any person who holds the nationality of an EU country is automatically also an EU citizen. EU citizenship is additional to and does not replace national citizenship. It is for each EU country to lay down the conditions for the acquisition and loss of nationality of that country.

  • hgreen

    Does he not get his guidance from baby Jesus?

  • Korhomme

    Thank you. I did know that. Still, I find his actions strange at times.

  • johnny lately

    “The UK is seeking to shift frontline immigration controls to Ireland’s ports and airports to avoid having to introduce a “hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland as part of post-Brexit immigration controls.”

    Do we take your word that there wont be a hard border Pete or have you inside knowledge that the British and Irish governments have already agreed a deal ?

  • file

    Yes Pete, but EU citizenships confers the additional rights listed above.

  • Korhomme

    N Ireland was presented at the Supreme Court this afternoon (7 December). David Scoffield QC had 30 minutes; Ronan Lavery QC had 15 minutes.

    On-line commentators agreed that the situation here is worthy of much longer discussion. Both QCs made very cogent arguments, along rather different lines, about the position NI vis-à-vis the Republic. Thus, the people of NI can choose whether to remain in UK—no one else in UK can. NI has some dealings with Republic, unlike any other devolved administration.

    Makes it even harder to understand what the AG was on about yesterday, and why.

  • Old Mortality

    ‘Thus, the people of NI can choose whether to remain in UK—no one else in UK can.’
    I seem to remember a referendum on this very matter a couple of years ago in Scotland.

  • Old Mortality

    But they will still have the right to reside in the state of which they claim citizenship and if they choose not to do so, you are (purposely?) deluded in thinking there will be passport controls along the border.

  • Korhomme

    Sure; but the point was that the NI Act for the Belfast/Good Friday agreement gave the people of NI the right to, effectively, self-determination. Previous Act, in 1985, was an imposition by Westminster on N Ireland.

    Scottish devolution doesn’t give them this self-determination; that could only come through a further Act which would have to be the result of a referendum.

  • johnny lately

    My birthright entitles me to freedom of movement around the island of Ireland not just the state I live in and thats generally accepted within the spirit of the GFA. Only a British person with a unionist mindset would think otherwise.

  • Korhomme

    According to the website, the AG’s main responsibilities are:

    Chief legal adviser to the Northern Ireland Executive for both civil
    and criminal matters that fall within the devolved powers of the
    Northern Ireland Assembly

    Protect the public interest in matters of law

    The Executive’s most senior representative in the courts

    Oversee the legal work of the in-house legal advisers to the Northern Ireland Executive and its departments

    Participate in the proceedings of the Assembly to the extent permitted by its standing orders but not vote in the Assembly

    Appointment of the Director and Deputy Director of the Public Prosecutions Service for Northern Ireland

    Which power was he exercising here? Protecting the public interest, perhaps? Seems a strange way to go about it.

  • lizmcneill

    Presumably a resident of Newry who applies for an Irish passport would have the same rights as Pence would, should he apply on the basis of his ancestry. They would both be Irish citizens currently resident in a non-EU country.

  • Old Mortality

    I doubt very much whether anyone will attempt to prevent you from roaming freely round your native isle although I suspect you hope that it might not be the case.

  • johnny lately

    Thats exactly what the two governments are negotiating about OM so forgive me if I dont take your word for it. Doesn’t look good though –

    “‘We won’t be colonised again!’ Furious Irish response to UK border check proposal”