House of Lords fears Brexit uncertainty is already having a detrimental impact on UK legal services

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By Katie King on

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC tells Tories to ‘urgently’ adopt interim measures to help stop this

The House of Lords’ EU Justice Sub-Committee has said it’s “concerned” that Brexit uncertainty is impacting the legal sector and urges the government to step in to address this “urgently”.

In its anticipated report, ‘Brexit: justice for families, individuals and businesses?’, the committee considered how a post-Brexit United Kingdom should approach the mutual enforceability of Europe-wide judgments.

At present, this is covered by the Brussels I Regulation (BIR). This law allows EU citizens to bring claims in a certain Member State, and have their judgment enforced in a different Member State. Hugh Mercer QC gives an example: “if you are knocked down in the street in Nicosia, you can bring your claim against the Cypriot insurer in English courts.”

Since the UK voted to leave the EU in June 2016, the predictability and certainty brought about by the BIR has been thrown into turmoil. The Law Society has even told the committee that foreign businesses are already being discouraged from naming English and Welsh courts in their commercial contracts.

With this uncertainty looming, the committee has recommended:

The government urgently needs to address this uncertainty and take steps to mitigate it. We therefore urge the government to consider whether any interim measures could be adopted to address this problem, while the new UK-EU relationship is being negotiated in the two year period under Article 50.

Beyond these interim measures, the Lords and Ladies are keen to secure a BIR-esque agreement once we’ve left the EU. This would have to be done outside of the Great Repeal Bill, because there is no way to domestically legislate reciprocal action on the part of other Member States.

Chairman of the committee Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, who recently spoke to Legal Cheek about her Brexit concerns, concluded the committee’s recommendations by saying:

Unless the government can agree a replacement of the existing rules on mutual recognition of judgments, there will be great uncertainty over access to justice for families, businesses and individuals… We therefore call on the government to secure adequate alternative arrangements, whether as part of a withdrawal agreement or a transitional deal.

Read the full report here:

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