The United Kingdom’s legal status on the global stage is under threat, an international law expert has warned, citing Brexit, the prorogation of Parliament and the dwindling count of UK judges serving on the benches of international judges.

Philippe Sands QC, a barrister at Matrix chambers and professor of law at University College London, warned the annual bar conference about ‘serious grounds for concern’ when considering the bar’s future . 

Citing Britain’s ‘changing place in the world’, he said: ‘As a consequence of decisions that have been taken, I think there are profound implications on perspectives around the world on the United Kingdom being seen as a country that is truly open to the world, and which tolerates and encourages a broad range of views.

‘Is the United Kingdom today as committed as it was in previous years to the idea of the rule of the law and to international law?’

Sands referred to the falling number number of UK judges in the International Court of Justice. He said: ‘If we leave the European Union we will be left with two international judges. If we leave the European Convention Human Rights… we will be left with a single international judge.

‘We may find ourselves… without a single international judge. That is a deplorable and terrible situation.’

On post Brexit politics, Sands said ‘the idea of a special relationship [with the United States] is nonsense’, adding that the real world is ‘brutal’.

On the bar’s future, Sands also criticised what he called a ‘declining appetite’ to allow academics to become barristers and and acknowledged the ‘challenge’ of law firms offering a broad range of legal services.