Upholding EU directives and accepting guidance from the Court of Justice of the European Union will not be a way of the UK ‘remaining in the EU by the back door’, City lawyers told parliament today. 

Taking questions from the House of Commons justice committee, lawyers and professionals claimed that upholding conventions that ‘recognise the enforceability of judgments’ should be a priority for the government in its Brexit negotiations.

In particular, the UK should uphold the Brussels I framework – which regulates which courts have jurisdiction in civil and commercial disputes and the enforceability of judgments across the EU.

Patrick Robinson, partner at magic circle firm Linklaters, Eva Lein, senior research fellow at the British Institute of International and Comparative Law and Gary Campkin, director, policy and strategy at lobby group TheCityUK, said retaining the convention would be beneficial for the UK’s legal services.

Under the convention, EU defendants should be sued in the courts of their domicile. Parties seeking to enforce a judgment obtained in one EU member state through the courts of another will no longer have to obtain a declaration of enforceability but will only have to present a copy of the judgment and a standard form certificate.

Last month, the Gazette reported that the government’s decision to ratify the Unified Patent Court and unitary patent, which would also accept CJEU supremacy, could prompt a backlash.

Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley in West Yorkshire, said giving authority to the CJEU could be viewed by some as a way of ’not really leaving the EU at all’.

‘People may view this as a bunch of lawyers who want to stay in the EU making sure that happens by some back-door way,’ Davies said, adding: ‘What would you say to my constituents who voted to leave?’

Robinson said it was not a way of ‘staying in the EU’ but that it would be within the UK’s interest to sign up to the agreement and that the CJEU would only explain how the directive works and is interpreted, and would not give it any broader power.

‘I would say [to your constituents] that the UK courts would be implementing a legal system that is right for the country. Just because it shares characteristics with the EU doesn’t mean that UK sovereignty is impaired.’

Lein said the CJEU would not be interfering but would only ‘explain what the concepts [of the convention] mean’.

‘You can tell your constituents that Brussels I protects businesses and individuals and helps them gain access to justice,’ she added.

Campkin said the UK’s legal market was a ‘jewel in the crown’ and reiterated his organisation’s call for the English contractual law to remain the choice for commercial disputes.

In a paper published today TheCityUK said the government should provide ‘urgent and clear articulation’ on areas including enforceability of judgments from UK courts and the importance of English contractual law.

The paper also stresses that English courts should be kept as a hub for businesses that want to resolve international disputes.