Arlene Foster says Sefcovic ‘had his head in the sand’
And Mr Habib said it was now time for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to take decisive action to deal with the problem “once and for all”, rather than “kicking the can down the road” The controversial rules are ostensibly aimed at preventing a hard border on the island of Ireland - but critics including Mrs Foster’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) claim the end result is a border down the Irish Sea as a result of additional checks on goods being transported to and from British mainland.
The move comes after the Government failed to respond to a letter before action send on February 19. Northern Ireland-based solicitors Nelson-Singleton yesterday tweeted: “We have today issued leave proceedings seeking Judicial Review of the imposition implementation and legality of the Northern Ireland Protocol.”
Former Brexit Party MEP Mr Habib confirmed he, Mrs Hoey, Mr Trimble, Mrs Foster, MLA and barrister Jim Allister, and Steve Aitken, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, were signatories to the action, which has been lodged with the High Court in Northern Ireland.
Mr Habib, who said the court must now decide whether or not to hear the case, told Express.co.uk: “The Northern Ireland Protocol exemplifies better than anything the deterioration in the courage, and confidence in themselves and our country, of our so-called leaders in Westminster.
“That is why we, a coalition of pro-unionists, including the First Minister of Northern Ireland and Lord Trimble (the Nobel Prize-winning architect of the Belfast Agreement), have been forced to take legal action against the government.
Ben Habib has said Boris Johnson needs to decide what side he is on
Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland's First Minister, is backing the court action
“In doing so we aim to protect the union of the United Kingdom where they have so failed.”
Mr Habib said the Protocol had never been required, describing it as “nonsense” that a customs border on the island of Ireland would breach the 1998 Belfast Agreement, also referred to as the Good Friday Agreement.
He explained: “There is already a border on the island and the Belfast Agreement confirmed its existence.
“Theresa May and her cohort of Remainers allowed the EU and Ireland falsely to weaponise the border issue and gave into their not-so-subtle threat of violence.”
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The document has been lodged with the High Court of Northern Ireland
Turning his attention to the current occupant of Number Ten, Mr Habib added: “Boris Johnson has not been any better.
“He did not challenge the false narrative, reaffirmed it and put a border down the Irish Sea, leaving Northern Ireland behind.
“Even though writing in the Telegraph on September 12 last year he confessed he had agreed the Protocol with one arm tied behind his back and that it threatened the fabric of the country, he nevertheless implemented it.”
Mr Habib said he first called for the repudiation of the Protocol on March 7, 2020 at a speech he had given to the Bruges Group think tank, and had since commented on numerous occasions, including one article in which he accused Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove of misleading the Lords EU Select Committee on the subject.
Nelson Singleton's tweet
Ben Habib included Boris Johnson's handle in his tweet
Mr Habib said: “The Protocol was a brewing constitutional crisis which has now come home to roost. It does not work at a constitutional or practical level.
“The government is caught between a rock and a hard place.
“Loyalists have, in response, suspended their adherence to the Belfast Agreement; businesses and consumers in Northern Ireland are up in arms unable to access goods from Great Britain; the EU has refused to agree the extension of grace periods and is now taking legal action against the UK; and we are taking our own action against the government.”
Addressing Mr Johnson’s role, Mr Habib said: “The Prime Minister needs to act. He cannot kick this can down the road.
Northern Ireland's border with the Republic
“The problem will only get worse with time. Whatever he does now, the political ramifications will be big but inaction would be worse.
“He needs to decide if he will side with the EU or with the UK.
“It is obvious that the right thing is for him to act to protect the union of the United Kingdom and its people.
“He must summon up the courage to ditch the Protocol.”
David Trimble, Northern Ireland's former First Minister, is also a signatory
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis this week confirmed the UK Government was unilaterally extending grace periods for Irish Sea border checks until October 1, prompting European Commissioner Maros Sefcovic to declare the move to be against international law.
Speaking in Middlesbrough on Thursday, Mr Johnson said: “We are taking some temporary and technical measures to ensure that there are no barriers in the Irish Sea, to make sure things flow freely between GB and NI, and that’s what you would expect.
“Obviously these are matters for continuing intensive discussions with our friends.
“I’m sure with a bit of goodwill and common sense all these technical problems are eminently solvable.”