House of Commons (Justice Committee) report on Implications of Brexit for the justice system

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The House of Commons (Justice Committee) published on 22 March its report on Implications of Brexit for the justice system (Ninth Report of Session 2016–17). It focus notably on Civil Justice.

The report recalls that in “civil justice, EU regulations establish procedures on choice of jurisdiction, and mutual recognition and enforcement of judgments, for transnational disputes. Protecting the UK as a top-class commercial law centre should be a major priority for the Government given the clear impacts on the economy of failure to do so: we recommend that the Government look to replicate existing provisions as closely as possible. Similar provisions in family law provide greater speed in child abduction cases, for example, and represent improvements over their default alternatives. We believe that a role for the Court of Justice of the European Union in respect of these essentially procedural regulations is a price worth paying to maintain effective cross-border tools of justice.

The UK’s legal services sector makes a £25.7 billion annual economic contribution. It relies on openness, and its lawyers’ current rights to practice across EU Member States help small businesses and ordinary people as well as large firms and wealthy individuals. We recommend that the Government protect these powers. It should also outline steps it will take to provide opportunities for the sector more broadly—with concerted efforts by EU law firms to use Brexit to win clients from UK competitors—though we have faith in UK legal services’ fundamental strengths”.

The report noted that there are special concerns in the law of banking and finance, which is a significant field given the importance of that sector to the UK economy. Data from the Law Society of England and Wales shows that between 2009 and the first half of 2015, the financial services industry accounted for 43% of the total value of deals on which the top 50 UK ’City’ law firms advised.

In relation to Brussels I bis, the report declared that both Lugano II and the 2005 Convention are preferable to a void; however, maintaining the advanced links of Brussels I bis must be the priority. Denmark agreed a bespoke version of Brussels I with the EU in 2005: this may be instructive for the UK, but the agreement— which gives the CJEU jurisdiction on interpretation—could be seen as in tension with the UK Government’s aim to end the jurisdiction of the CJEU in the UK.

As for Rome I and II, they should be brought into domestic law.

The report therefore recommended the following principal aims for the Government’s approach to justice matters in Brexit negotiations: Maintaining access to the EU’s valuable regulations on inter-state commercial law; Enabling cross-border legal practice rights and opportunities;  Retaining efficient mechanisms to resolve family law cases involving EU Member States and the UK.

(Altalex, 3 July 2017. Article by Emmanuel Guinchard)

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