Brexit can be realised in innumerably many ways, each with divergent consequences in different sectors of policy importance: we investigated its implications for the justice system to inform the Government—and Parliamentary and public debates—on key priorities for criminal justice, civil law, and the legal services sector.
Crime is ever more international. EU mechanisms to combat illegal activities across borders include:
We welcome the Government’s signals that it intends to continue to cooperate with the EU on criminal justice. The seriousness of the matter and the degree of mutual interest give weight to the suggestion that this aspect of negotiations be separated firmly from others—it is too precious to be left vulnerable to tactical bargaining.
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.
We therefore recommend that the four principal aims of the Government’s approach to justice matters in Brexit negotiations be:
(1)Continuing cooperation on criminal justice as closely as possible
(2)Maintaining access to the EU’s valuable regulations on inter-state commercial law
(3)Enabling cross-border legal practice rights and opportunities
(4)Retaining efficient mechanisms to resolve family law cases involving EU Member States and the UK
17 March 2017