The Western Sahara Campaign UK (WSCUK) took legal action over regulations made by Britain's finance ministry following the October 2019 "association agreement", which was designed to replicate Morocco's agreement with the European Union.

The group argued at London's High Court that regulations which extended the preferential rate of import duty to goods originating in Western Sahara, a territory Morocco regards as its own, were unlawful.

Judge Sara Cockerill dismissed WSCUK's argument that products originating in Western Sahara should only benefit from preferential tariffs if they were produced with the consent of the people of Western Sahara.

She said in a written ruling on Monday that the group's interpretation of the agreement between the United Kingdom and Morocco would mean that "the agreement could not be used as regards products originating in Western Sahara at all".

A British government spokesperson said: "We welcome today's verdict. We will continue to work closely with Morocco to maximise [the] 2.7 billion pounds worth of trade between our countries."

Erin Alcock, a lawyer at Leigh Day who represented WSCUK, said her client was "disappointed with the court's decision".

The ruling follows a long-simmering dispute over the territory of Western Sahara, which has become part of Morocco and Algeria's regional rivalry in North Africa.

Algeria backs the Polisario Front independence movement for the disputed territory, which announced in 2020 the resumption of its armed struggle against Morocco.

(Reporting by Sam Tobin. Editing by Andrew MacAskill)

By Sam Tobin