Posted: 26th October 2016
Author: Emily Bower

The Implications of Brexit on the Justice System – Family Cases

The Justice Committee has launched an inquiry into the implications of Brexit for the justice system.

The Committee has welcomed written submissions from experts and any affected parties to enable it to present the Government with recommendations concerning the questions it will need to address in the eventual Brexit negotiation process.

The Justice Committee recognises that “There is a significant body of EU law dealing with the handling of cross-border legal disputes, such as the ‘Brussels Regulations’ covering civil, commercial and family matters. Post-Brexit, this EU legislation will not automatically apply to the UK (though much underlying international law will remain). Removing it would affect, for example, the jurisdiction of UK courts to deal with disputes as well as the enforceability of English and Welsh judgments in other member states (and vice versa). Family cases often benefit from such jurisdictional legislation. It would create challenges, but also opportunities, particularly in commercial law dispute resolution.”

There is also a separate inquiry into the human rights implications that will have a bearing on family law, particularly in relation to the right to privacy and the right to family life.

The Justice Committee explains that “Withdrawal from the EU would mean that the UK no longer has to comply with the human rights obligations contained in the EU Treaties and other sources of EU law, unless Parliament chooses to continue them in force. The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, for example, would not apply, and the EU Court of Justice would not have jurisdiction over the UK (except possibly for transitional cases that arose before withdrawal). Other EU law protecting rights would also cease to have effect except to the extent that they have already been transposed into UK law.” 

The Justice Committee Chair, Harriet Harman, said:

“EU law provides many important human rights protections. It is vitally important that these are carefully considered in Brexit negotiations, to ensure that we do not weaken any existing human rights protections, especially where these apply to some of the most vulnerable groups in society.”

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Only time will tell as to what extent Brexit will impact on our day to day work.