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Enforcement and Dispute Resolution

Enforcement and Dispute Resolution

Over recent weeks David Davis’s Brexit department has published seven so-called partnership papers, one of which, entitled ‘Enforcement and Dispute Resolution’, covers the role of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

The introduction to this paper states: “In leaving the European Union, we will bring about an end to the direct jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). The UK and the EU need therefore to agree on how both the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement, and our new deep and special partnership, can be monitored and implemented to the satisfaction of both sides, and how any disputes which arise can be resolved.

“EU membership has meant an intrinsic link between the EU’s legal order and the legal systems in the UK. Withdrawal from the EU will mean a return to the situation where the UK and the EU have their own autonomous legal orders. The Withdrawal Agreement and the future partnership must respect the autonomy and integrity of both legal orders.”

Theresa May has insisted that the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK will come to an end with Brexit. The PM said the UK would “take back control of our laws.” Asked about her government’s position, Mrs May said: “What we will be able to do is to make our own laws – Parliament will make our laws – it is British judges that will interpret those laws, and it will be the British Supreme Court that will be the ultimate arbiter of those laws.”

Speaking during a visit to Guildford, the prime minister said: “What is absolutely clear, when we leave the European Union we will be leaving the jurisdiction of the European court of justice. Parliament will make our laws. It is British judges who will interpret those laws and it will be the British supreme court that will be the arbiter of those laws.” And at the Tory conference last October, she spoke of a “Britain in which we pass our own laws and govern ourselves.”

Well that’s quite clear. Or is it? Critics say it will be impossible to avoid European judges having a role in enforcing new agreements drawn up with the EU. The promise to end “direct jurisdiction” in recent policy papers has raised questions about what “indirect” jurisdiction the EU court could be left with. The key question is how much influence the CJEU would retain under a bilateral agreement with the UK.

BBC Legal Correspondent Clive Coleman writes that “the EU will not sign up to an agreement which allows UK to depart from EU law to the UK’s advantage and the EU’s disadvantage on things like state aid to companies, or emissions standards. It will want a level playing field in trade and that will mean a lot of EU law as part of the agreement. The reality is that the more closely the Brexit trade agreement replicates EU law, the greater the influence of the CJEU will be.”

The pro-EU Open Britain campaign group said the government’s policy paper was a “climbdown camouflaged in jingoistic rhetoric.” The expanding scale of the prime minister’s climbdown over her promise to “take back control of British law” has led to discontent, with Tory Brexit supporters claiming Theresa May is abandoning the hardline position she set out in last year’s Conservative party conference speech and in a speech at Lancaster House in January.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer MP says the new document contradicts the “red line” on the European Court of Justice in the PM’s Lancaster House speech. “Any final deal with the EU that protects jobs and the economy will require an effective and robust dispute resolution mechanism,” he said. “This will inevitably involve some form of independent court.”

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said Mrs May’s “red lines are becoming more blurred by the day”, saying the CJEU had “served Britain’s interests well” and should not be “trashed.”

Labour MP Chuka Umunna, a leading supporter of the Open Britain campaign against a hard Brexit, said: “It appears that the Government realises that European judges will have some say over what happens in Britain, whether we are in the single market or not.”

Britain could remain under the direct control of the European court of justice for years after Brexit, and still be forced to implement the court’s rulings on vexed issues such as immigration.

This post was written by:

- who has written 462 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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