The House of Commons justice select committee, chaired by Conservative MP Bob Neill, has asked the Ministry of Justice to answer several questions about the implications of Brexit on the justice system by 10 December - the day before MPs vote on the deal Theresa May has agreed with EU leaders.
In a letter to justice minister Lucy Frazer, Neill says the committee welcomes her statement about the priority she is giving to preparations for an EU exit but that members still have 'a number of serious concerns'.
Neill says there is 'little detail or certainty' about how civil judicial cooperation will be achieved from December 2020, after the transitional period ends. He says: 'The draft political declaration states that "the parties will explore options for judicial cooperation in matrimonial, parental responsibility and other related matters". So broad and unspecific a statement provides little comfort.'
Fundamental questions raised by the Law Society, Bar Council and an expert in finance and capital markets at magic circle firm Clifford Chance remain: 'Will submission to the jurisdiction of the English courts and enforceability of judgments remain the same before and after Brexit (including the implementation period)? What will be the impact on contractual continuity?'
The committee is 'disappointed' with the progress made since March 2017, when the government was told that it should seek to maintain cooperation on criminal justice as closely as possible. MPs say 'robust alternative arrangements' to replace the loss of access to the European Arrest Warrant, the European Criminal Records Information System, and the Schengen Information System II after the transition period ends would have 'serious downstream consequences'.
Neill says his committee is 'disappointed' by the government's decision not to publish a 'no deal' technical notice for criminal justice measures. It says it will keep a 'very close eye' on any MoJ guidance to justice agencies in the coming weeks.
The committee also asks for the exact budget for the ministry's Legal Services are GREAT campaign to highlight the benefits of the UK legal services sector. 'Are you confident that the MoJ is spending enough resource and departmental time on this campaign?' asks Neill.
Today Neill said the signficant questions that remain put the global reputation of the legal services sector, its 300,000 jobs and £26bn contribution to the economy at risk: 'I hope these issues are given high priority, and in view of the seriousness of the potential impact, have requested a swift response by December 10th - before the meaningful vote in parliament.'