The preservation of cross-border legal practice rights should be among the top priorities for negotiating the UK’s new relationship with the EU, MPs say today. Reporting on its inquiry into negotiating Brexit priorities for the justice system, the House of Commons Justice Committee urges ministers to ensure that both criminal and civil links are preserved whatever happens elsewhere in the negotiations following the triggering of article 50.
Echoing the findings of a House of Lords inquiry earlier this week, the committee says the government should maintain access to the EU's regulations in inter-state commercial law and retain efficient mechanisms to resolve family law cases involving nationals of EU member states.
Cross-border legal practice rights and opportunities must also be preserved, saying that there is 'clear evidence of reciprocal benefit'. The report recommends that the government should consider and promote the legal services sector in the context of its post-Brexit trade recalibration and the pursuit of new deals.
Co-operation on criminal justice should continue 'as closely as possible', the report says. This would include retaining the European arrest warrant, as well as access to investigative resources in the Europol and Eurojust agencies and sharing data on suspects’ criminal records and biometric information.
Committee chair Bob Neill MP said: 'We welcome the government’s signals that it intends to continue to cooperate with the EU on criminal justice. The seriousness of the matter and the degree of mutual interest give weight to the suggestion that this aspect of negotiations be separated firmly from others – it is too precious to be left vulnerable to tactical bargaining.'
The Law Society, which gave evidence to the committee, strongly welcomed the report. Society president Robert Bourns said: 'English and Welsh law not only underpins global trade but the jurisdiction of England and Wales is also a first choice for business because of our world-renowned legal sector. The justice select committee report highlights this and it also emphasises the importance of cross-border co-operation on tackling crime and family law as well as addressing issues like the near-automatic recognition of civil and commercial judgments, and enabling business.
'It is in the interests of both the UK and EU that legal certainty is maintained throughout the process of our withdrawal. Businesses and individuals need time to adjust - so transitional arrangements and a proper implementation period should be agreed well ahead of entering into a new framework.'
The Bar Council said the committee had reached ‘some sensible conclusions’. It said that ‘effective cross-border arrangements to ensure continued co-operation with the EU on criminal justice need to be maintained. Likewise in civil justice, choice of jurisdiction together with mutual recognition and enforcement of judgments (as well as equivalent arrangements in family law) are in the UK’s interest as well as in the EU’s interest post-Brexit.’