The government’s framework for the UK-EU partnership on civil-judicial co-operation

Overview

On 13 June, the Government released their proposed framework for the future UK-EU Partnership in the area of civil-judicial co-operation. The paper spells out the existing relationship between the UK & EU in this area, whilst going into little detail as to what the UK wants to achieve in the future relationship, other than to have the closest relationship as possible. (All references, unless otherwise stated, are taken from this document).

Top lines

  • The Government need to explain precisely what it is they actually want to achieve when it comes to future judicial co-operation with the EU.
  • In this document, the Government are perfectly prepared to highlight the drawbacks of leaving the EU and the impact that this will have for issues such as divorce proceedings, consumer protection, business disputes and insolvency issues.
  • It is simply not good enough to produce a negotiating position, void of any genuine negotiating stance on an issue which will affect all of us - private individuals as well as businesses.
  • With the Government having failed to provide adequate detail and information on what the future actually holds in regards the UK-EU relationship on this issue, it is only right that there is a people’s vote at the end of the process.

 

Summary

  • Whilst the Government explain the importance of continuing civil-judicial co-operation with the EU post-Brexit they have provided very little detail on what the future partnership will be in this area other than to note they want to go beyond the existing kind of arrangement which the EU has, with three of the four EFTA countries (Norway, Iceland and Switzerland but not Liechtenstein in the form of the “Lugano” agreement). The “Lugano” agreement governs issues of jurisdiction and enforcement of judgments between the EU and these countries.[1]
  • The document highlights a number of areas where a lack of any agreement between the UK and the EU on civil-judicial co-operation will have significant consequences, raising the question as to why the Government are pursuing with this policy in the first place. These areas include:
    • Divorce, where existing rules allow British people to begin divorce proceedings in the UK, even if they were married in another EU state. Furthermore, existing rules prevent spouses from opening parallel proceedings in a different EU member state, making divorce simpler and less expensive. Without an agreement these advantages will be lost.
    • Consumers rights, where existing rules make it easier for a UK consumer to enforce their consumer rights against a company based in another EU country – and they can bring the case in the country where they live. Without an agreement, they could not rely on a foreign court enforcing judgements in the UK and would struggle to pursue their rights.
    • Business Disputes: Under the current arrangements, there are clear rules which dictate which court will hear which cases when companies from different member states are in dispute. British companies in dispute over goods sent to them by EU firms may currently sue in the UK. Without an agreement, the judgement of British courts would not be enforceable in EU countries. This will be of clear concern for British business.
    • Insolvency: Current rules make sure that insolvency proceedings in the EU member state where the firm is headquartered take precedence over those in other member states, reducing the cost and time taken in such proceedings. Without an agreement between the UK and the EU, creditors would be forced to pursue piecemeal proceedings in multiple countries and the company would be more likely to go into administration - more UK firms would go to the wall.
  • Taking these points into consideration, this raises serious questions over whether Brexit is indeed the right path for this country. With more and more questions being raised over Brexit by the day, it is only right that there is a people’s vote at the end of the process.

[1] https://uk.practicallaw.thomsonreuters.com/6-501-0897?transitionType=Default&contextData=(sc.Default)&firstPage=true&bhcp=1