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Western Sahara (2)

Western Sahara Campaign UK granted permission for judicial review of post-Brexit trade deal with Morocco

Western Sahara Campaign UK has been granted permission by the High Court to bring a judicial review against the government’s decision to adopt the UK-Morocco Association Agreement.

Posted on 28 June 2021

The trade agreement applies to products and resources from Western Sahara, over which Morocco claims territorial sovereignty, despite the International Court of Justice having ruled that no ties of sovereignty exist.

The Western Sahara Campaign UK (WSCUK), represented by law firm, Leigh Day, argues in its case that by extending the agreement to goods and resources from Western Sahara, the UK Government is in breach of its obligations under international law.

In 2015, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled in favour of WSCUK in relation to a legal challenge against HMRC and DEFRA relating to the implementation of a previous version of the EU-Morocco Association Agreement and the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement. This ruling was confirmed by the High Court of England and Wales.

The courts found that the EU agreements could not be applied to the territory of Western Sahara, nor could Morocco be understood to exercise jurisdiction over the territory, as this would contravene the principle of self-determination and the rule of international law that a treaty may not impose rights or obligations on a third party without that party’s consent.

Western Sahara Campaign UK (WSCUK) is an independent voluntary organisation founded in 1984 with the aim of supporting the recognition of self-determination and the choice of independence for the Saharawi people of Western Sahara, and to raise awareness of the unlawful occupation of Western Sahara.

John Gurr of Western Sahara Campaign UK 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.”

Erin Alcock of 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. “

Victoria Wakefield QC of Brick Court Chambers and Conor McCarthy of Monckton Chambers are instructed in this matter.

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Waleed Sheik
Human rights Judicial review

Waleed Sheikh

Waleed Sheikh is a partner in the human rights department.

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Erin Alcock
Human rights Judicial review

Erin Alcock

Erin is an associate in the human rights team

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High Court confirms European court ruling on Western Sahara

The High Court has now implemented the ruling by the Courts of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) which recognises the self-determination rights of Saharawi people of the Western Sahara.