BELFAST Jan 11 The potential suspension of
Northern Ireland's regional assembly could force Britain to
delay its exit talks from the European Union if London's Supreme
Court rules Belfast's approval is needed, a lawyer said on
Northern Ireland's High Court ruled in October that the
province's laws did not restrict British Prime Minister Theresa
May's ability to trigger an exit from the European Union, and
that the consent of the regional parliament was not required.
But human rights activist Raymond McCord appealed against
the ruling in Britain's highest judicial body, which will
consider the argument when it rules in the next couple of weeks
on whether May can begin the process without the approval of the
Likely snap elections in the British-run province that may
be followed by lengthy renegotiations on the terms of the
power-sharing government could delay May's plans to begin the
talks by the end of March, McCord's lawyer told Reuters.
"In the current circumstances, where there is a potential
suspension of the institutions, the approval of the devolved
institutions would not be possible," Paul Farrell, a partner at
McIvor Farrell Solicitors, said in a telephone interview.
"Devolution has obviously added a layer of complexity to the
constitutional arrangements within the United Kingdom and this
case is addressing those complex relationships now."
The risk of political paralysis in the region as Britain
plans its exit from the EU resulted from Northern Ireland Deputy
First Minister Martin McGuinness' resignation on Monday,
effectively collapsing the devolved government.
A spokeswoman for May said on Wednesday that the timetable
for Britain's triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty,
which kicks off the EU divorce process, was clear, when asked
whether anything in Northern Ireland could derail that process.
"There's now this limbo before elections can be called, so
we're not going to get ahead of ourselves. We have been clear on
the timetable for triggering Article 50 and we will be sticking
to that," she said.
(Additional reporting by Michael Holden and Will James in
London, writing by Padraic Halpin in Dublin; editing by Stephen