Clarity needed on post-Brexit justice system, says IfG

26 Jun 17

Parliament needs to clarify the future of the UK’s legal system after Brexit, the Institute for Government has stated.

A report from the think-tank, Brexit and the European Court of Justice, calls on legislators to outline how the country’s courts will operate after the UK leaves the EU.

It comes as Brexit secretary David Davis told the BBC yesterday that the government would “fight” the EU over the role the continent’s top court, the European Court of Justice, will have in post-Brexit Britain.

He said: "When we are doing all these deals on trade and other areas, there will be arbitration arrangements.

“There won't be the ECJ. There will be a mutually agreed chairman and somebody nominated from both sides, that's the normal way, but there my be other ways too, and it may well be we have an arbitration arrangement over this, but it's not going to be the European Court of Justice.”

Under current proposals the existing, pre-Brexit decisions of the ECJ will be incorporated into UK law, but there is no detail on how British judges should treat future decisions.

The IfG warns “this could leave judges exposed to a fierce political battle”.

Jill Rutter, IfG’s Brexit programme director, said: “The prime minister has promised to end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

“If only it were that simple. The court’s role is not one issue but many, and the government so far has only come up with some of the answers.

“As MPs gear up to scrutinise the Repeal Bill, they should adopt a more comprehensive approach to avoid a legal muddle after we leave the EU.”

The report states that the role of the ECJ could be a serious stumbling block in the Brexit negotiations because the EU will want it to be the final arbiter on the rights of citizens and the divorce bill.

Raphael Hogarth, report author, said: “Parliament should protect the independence of the UK judiciary by ensuring that responsibility for setting the terms of the post-Brexit constitutional order is seen to rest firmly in Westminster, not beneath a wig.”

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