Autumn brings the opening of the legal year, new draft legislation and many important legal events.

You will all have your own reflections on the impact of the death of Queen Elizabeth II. She showed an outstanding dedication to public service over an exceptional reign, and I would like to thank the many Bar Associations around the world which have written to express their sympathy. The transition to the reign of King Charles is marked for us in the renaming of the King’s Bench Division, indictments, QC to KC and in due course the new coats of arms. These changes, however, do not alter any of the fundamental challenges ahead. Two months of an absent government over the summer has not been helpful.

As I write I am returning from the Labour Party Conference. The week ahead sees the swearing in of the Lord Chancellor, Attorney General and Solicitor General, the Opening of the Legal Year and the Conservative Party Conference. At the conferences we will publicly restate the case we make year-round to politicians and their parties for the urgent investment the justice system needs.

The Opening of the Legal Year is a remarkable event attended by Bar leaders from around the world. Our visitors’ respect and affection for our traditions and standards is deeply held. The law of England and Wales is, I believe, second only to the English language as a national asset around the world. All the more reason to ensure that our domestic courts are properly resourced, and that justice is accessible to all. Not only does underfunding damage the public’s confidence in the system, it damages the country’s reputation internationally and impacts on trade.

The most urgent problem to fix is in the criminal courts. The Bar Council continues to urge the government to take a first step and fully implement the Bellamy recommendations now. We have attended talks with the new Justice Secretary Brandon Lewis and the Criminal Bar Association (CBA). We are now at a critical juncture. The talks have been constructive. I hope they continue until we can find a resolution that is acceptable to all.

The Bill of Rights has been shelved. Subsequently there has been a flurry of legislative activity with announcements on new draft Bills that are likely to have implications for barristers, clients, the public interest, and the rule of law.

The Brexit Freedoms Bill is intended to end the special status of all retained EU law (REUL) by 31 December 2023. The Bar Council has said that the draft legislation must be carefully considered and properly scrutinised by Parliament. In most cases, the EU legislation was supported, and even promoted, by the UK government of the day.

The politically motivated urge to replace law merely because it is ‘EU’ in origin is more ideological than rational. The question in each case should be whether alternative UK regulation would achieve different and preferable goals, whether it would be better or more cost-effective in achieving its goals, or whether it would be more certain in its application. Tearing up what exists without an improved alternative will damage the UK. Uncertainty undermines international confidence in doing business at home and abroad.

REUL affects the whole UK. Last week I met with colleagues from the ‘4 Bars’ including the UK and Ireland. We are all concerned about the effects of the proposals on our jurisdictions. We will stay closely in touch and work together in the coming months as the government makes further pronouncements.

Buried deep within the economic crime legislation also announced recently, the government proposes an additional regulatory objective in the Legal Services Act 2007. There is no evidence offered to justify the extension of (expensive) regulation and regulatory mission creep. We have warned the government that provisions in the Bill may be incompatible with barristers’ duties and risk confusing the role of lawyers.

October brings Black History Month, and we are approaching one year on from our landmark Race at the Bar report. We remain committed to delivering change and have written to all chambers to find out what actions and activities have been taking place and what’s planned for the near future – please complete our survey so we can better understand what is happening across the Bar.

For our own part, at the end of September the Bar Council published an analysis of work allocation and appointments to the government’s legal panels by sex and ethnicity, which revealed a lack of diversity and we have already started to press for action to improve outcomes for barristers from underrepresented groups.

As I look ahead, can I urge you to consider attending some of our many events including the Bar Conference in November. We have a superb programme, and it would be a particular delight to see many of you in person.