Brexit justice priorities

Protecting cross-border legal practice rights must be a priority in the government’s Brexit negotiations, according to a high profile cross-party committee.

The Justice Committee’s report, Implications of Brexit for the justice system, highlighted four key priorities: continue cooperation on criminal justice as closely as possible; maintain access to the EU’s inter-state commercial law regulations; enable cross-border legal practice rights and opportunities; and retain efficient mechanisms to resolve family law cases involving EU member states and the UK.

The Committee said that the overall implications of Brexit for the legal services sector give ‘cause for concern’ and warned that the ability of the legal services sector to underpin many areas of UK economic activity would be diminished without protection of existing practising rights there for UK lawyers.

Chairman Bob Neill said: ‘The UK’s legal services sector makes a £25.7bn 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.’

The committee also argued that the Court of the Justice of the European Union should retain its jurisdicton in the UK, stating it is a ‘price worth paying’ to maintain effective cross-border tools of justice.

The Bar Council said the committee had reached some ‘sensible conclusions’ and, in its own Brexit Papers, called on the government to give EU citizens unrestricted access to UK jobs in post-Brexit Britain.

See further The Brexit Papers (Counsel, May 2017).

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Strength testing the British constitution


Following the triggering of Art 50, Anneli Howard assesses the possible ramifications of the Supreme Court’s Miller ruling, other associated litigation and key next steps for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU

The British are famous for their unwritten constitution, which has evolved over the last 800 years. 

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The Bar Council & Brexit

Information from the Brexit Working Group

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Westminster Watch

With the formal process of disengagement about to begin, Mark Hatcher examines the challenges faced in converting a huge corpus of EU law and delivering Brexit

Brexit continues to dominate life at Westminster. 

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Lawyers voice doubts over PM’s Brexit Bill

Senior lawyers, business leaders and academics urged the government to give MPs the power to block an ‘unpatriotic Brexit’ if the Prime Minister, Theresa May, does not strike a deal that is in the national interest.

A letter in The Times newspaper, organised by Mark Stephens, a media law partner at London firm Howard Kennedy, came as peers began to debate the controversial ‘Brexit Bill’.

It said: ‘We believe Parliament should amend the Article 50 notification bill to ensure that it can determine what should be done if negotiations break down.

‘Parliament’s vote on any emerging settlement must also permit, if the terms are not in the national interest, amendment or extension of the negotiations, and to allow the country the option of an alternative relationship with the EU, including the possibility of membership.’

Signatories included Baroness Kennedy QC, Ben Emmerson QC, of Matrix Chambers, Alexander Layton QC, of 20 Essex Street, Peter Montegriffo QC, John Vater QC, of Harcourt Chambers, Tim Ward QC and Jon Turner QC, of Monckton Chambers, and Jolyon Maugham QC, of Devereux Chambers.

It followed an opinion from three of the UK’s most senior EU law experts – Sir David Edward QC, Sir Francis Jacobs QC, and Sir Jeremy Lever QC, commissioned by law firm Bindmans. Dubbed the ‘three knights opinion’, it suggested that the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill does not authorise Brexit and that a further Act of Parliament would be required if it is to occur in a way that is lawful.

Parliament passed the Brexit Bill unamended on 13 March.

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Brexit judgment

In a historic judgment, the Supreme Court ruled, by a majority of eight to three, that the government was required to consult Parliament before triggering Art 50 and starting the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. See further 'Miller and the modern British Constitution' and 'Miller, BrEXIT and BreUK-up'.

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Citizenship initiative

The Bar Council and Citizenship Foundation have developed lessons to teach secondary school children about the importance of the rule of law and the role of the judiciary in the democratic process. The pilot initiative comes in the wake of newspaper headlines critical of judges in the Art 50 Brexit process. Email:

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Westminster Watch

With the triggering of Art 50 imminent, Mark Hatcher examines preparations in Westminster and Whitehall, with a white paper providing some comfort to the Bar

Tucked away behind the Old Treasury Building at No 9 Downing Street is the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU). 

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Miller, BrEXIT and BreUK-up

The Supreme Court’s treatment of the devolution issues in Miller is troubling, argues Aidan O’Neill QC, who examines the UK’s complex multi-national constitutional history and potential impact on the devolved political constitution

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Miller and the modern British Constitution

Miller reveals the malleability of the parliamentary sovereignty doctrine, argues Professor Mark Elliott in his examination of the many tensions which lie at the heart of the majority judgment

There are few aspects of the modern British constitution that the Supreme Court’s judgment in Miller does not at least engage (R (on the application of Miller and Dos Santos) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and associated references [2017] UKSC 5). 

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