The European Commission has warned lawyers in the UK and across Europe to prepare for the withdrawal of EU rules on civil justice and private international law in the runup to Brexit.

Potential repercussions in the absence of a Brexit deal are ‘not just a matter for the commission and national judicial authorities but also for private parties in member states’, the directorate-general, justice and consumers said in a statement this week.

When Brexit is effected on 30 March 2019, EU rules in civil justice and private international law will cease to apply in the UK. In view of the ‘considerable uncertainties’ that remain, in particular concerning the content of a withdrawal agreement, ’members of the legal professions as well as other stakeholders are reminded of legal repercussions, which need to be considered when the United Kingdom becomes a third country’, it said.

The commission statement highlights four far-reaching consequences of a hard Brexit: 

  • The disapplication of rules on international jurisdiction in civil, commercial and family judicial proceedings - jurisdiction will be governed by the national rules of state courts;
  • Reciprocity in the recognition and enforcement of judgments,  which will cease;
  • Judicial cooperation with the UK (eg in relation to the service of documents and evidence), which will cease; and
  • Specific EU procedures, such as the European procedure for small claims, which will no longer be available in UK courts and EU member state courts where one or more parties are UK-domiciled. 

David Greene, senior partner at commercial firm Edwin Coe and chair of the Law Society’s Brexit taskforce, tweeted: ’[This statement] highlights very difficult picture in cross border justice absent concluded agreement and absolute need to do a deal.’