The National | 28 June 2021
Brexit: Western Sahara indy campaign takes UK Government to court
By Kirsteen Paterson
A CAMPAIGN group backing independence in Western Sahara is to take the UK Government to court over a post-Brexit trade agreement with Morocco.
The case is understood to be the first court challege over post-Brexit trade arrangements.
Challengers hope it’ll help the Saharawi people achieve self-determination and independence from Morocco.
The Western Sahara Campaign UK (WSCUK) says Morocco — which claims sovereignty over the disputed and oil-rich Western Sahara territory in north-west Africa — is occupying it unlawfully.
And it claims the UK-Morocco Association Agreement, which extends to goods and resources from Western Sahara, undermines the "right to self-determination of the Saharawi people" and allows the "theft of the natural resources of Western Sahara".
At a hearing earlier this month, WSCUK argued that the UK’s agreement with Morocco puts the Westminster government in breach of international law and asked Mr Justice Chamberlain to give permission for a full hearing of the case.
Lawyers representing the Department for International Trade and the Treasury said the claim was unarguable.
But, in a ruling on Monday, Mr Justice Chamberlain said WSCUK’s claim was arguable and should proceed to a full hearing.
That is now set to be heard later this year or in early 2022 over three days.
In a statement after the ruling, John Gurr of WSCUK said: "This is an important step for the Saharawi people.
"The challenge to an agreement that allows the theft of the natural resources of Western Sahara and further entrenches the Moroccan occupation can now proceed."
The group’s solicitor Erin Alcock from the law firm Leigh Day said: "Our client is pleased to have been granted permission to proceed with their judicial review challenge.
"This case will present the court with an important opportunity to consider the legality of a post-Brexit trade deal implemented in the UK in the context of international legal obligations."