Westminster Watch

Mark Hatcher on the Great Repeal Bill, legal black holes and bonfires of red tape that will dominate Whitehall and Westminster for the foreseeable future

The Foreign Office document published at the beginning of the year which outlined the process for withdrawing from the European Union (Cm 9216) was unequivocal.

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Brexit public access boost

Statistics from a sample of more than 9,000 individual searches made between 1 January and 1 August this year revealed that EU law was one of the most popular searches on the Bar Council’s Direct Access Portal. The 20 common search terms also included civil, property, employment and professional negligence. ‘We can only assume that the reason EU law is so high up the rankings (fourth) is because of the uncertainty of Brexit,’ said Bar Chairman, Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC.

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Westminster Watch

Westminster village begins to recover its equilibrium after the EU vote, grappling with the machinery of change and arrangements to scrutinise Brexit policy

In 1886 the Liberal politician, Joseph Chamberlain is reported to have said: ‘In politics, there is no use in looking beyond the next fortnight.’ 

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EU law could be ‘50-year blip’ on life of common law: Neuberger

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) has had a ‘beneficial’ effect on UK judges, but Brexit could render it a ‘bliplet’ on the common law, the President of the Supreme Court said.

Addressing the Faculty of Law at the University of Singapore over the summer, Lord Neuberger considered whether, since the UK’s accession to the European Union and the bringing into UK law of the ECHR through the Human Rights Act 1998, England and Wales could still properly claim to be common law jurisdictions.

His speech, Has the identity of the English common law been eroded by EU laws and the European Convention on Human Rights?, determined that the common law was alive and well, although he said judges had at first been ‘so excited about the new toy [of the ECHR] that they left the old one [the common law] ‘in the cupboard’.

After the UK voted in the Referendum to leave the EU, he said: ‘Quite where this will lead remains to be seen, but it may well mean that the influence of EU law will be a 50-year blip on the near thousand years of the life of the common law’.

And, he said, the Government’s proposals to repeal and replace the 1998 Act ‘could result in the European Convention influence being no more than a 20-year bliplet on the life of the common law’.

As a serving judge, he declined to comment on whether the developments are good or bad.

Neuberger stated that the ‘direct influence of EU law has been significantly less than the direct influence of Convention law’.

He said: ‘The EU law cases which come to the UK courts involve the interpretation of EU Treaties, Directives and Regulations and of UK statutes intended to give effect to EU Directives. So the issues are essentially interpretational in nature.’

By contrast: ‘The extent of the reach of the Convention, through the medium of the 1998 Act, has been of such width and of such novelty it has had a significant (and I believe a generally beneficial) effect on the approach of UK judges when deciding cases.’

But he warned judges to ensure that in applying any principles from Strasbourg, they do not ‘undermine the essential characteristics of our constitutional system, based on the common law and parliamentary sovereignty’.

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Justice in the digital age

A bold ‘hi-tech’ vision for the future of HMCTS shouldn’t ignore that access to justice is being steadily eroded by ‘enhanced’ court fees and the radical cuts to legal aid

Every barrister will be affected in some way by the shared £1bn vision for the future of HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) set out in the recent joint statement, Transforming our Justice System, issued by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Chief Justice and Senior President of Tribunals. 

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Raising the bar

‘Innovation and global opportunity’ – this year’s Bar Conference theme – should prompt barristers in every field to reassess the way they work, explains Gerard McDermott QC

When asked by the Chairman of the Bar, Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC, to chair this year’s Bar and Young Bar Conference I enquired whether I could make at least part of it international in flavour. 

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BREXIT: What now for the Bar?

Evanna Fruithof outlines Brexit’s implications for barristers across practice area

Three months on from the UK’s seismic EU Referendum result, and with the brief respite of summer behind us, defining and dealing with the implications of the pending Brexit for the Bar is a major priority. 

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O’Brien update (4) – By His Honour John Platt

Latest developments in the O’Brien/Miller pension and money claims.

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Brexit: an important role for the courts

Proceedings have been instituted challenging the power of the Prime Minister to activate Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty without the prior consent and authority of Parliament. In the second of a series of personal opinion pieces looking at the spectrum of views within this contentious area, Jolyon Maugham QC argues that the courts have an important role to play in answering crucial questions about the role of Parliament.

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Brexit: what role do the courts have to play?

Judicial review proceedings have been instituted challenging the power of the Prime Minister to activate Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty without the prior consent and authority of Parliament. In the first of a series of personal opinion pieces looking at the spectrum of views within this contentious area, Stanley Brodie QC argues the courts have no role to play in deciding the fate of Brexit.

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