Lord chief justice urges enforceability of EU rulings in UK post-Brexit

Ministers must work faster to ensure that after Brexit UK and EU court judgments are mutually recognised and enforced, the lord chief justice has urged.

In his final speech at the annual Mansion House dinner for judges, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd blasted government delays in negotiating a settlement to protect Britain’s £25.7bn a year legal industry.

Addressing the white-tie event, the outgoing lord chief justice said: “It is essential for the UK that we work with the EU to ensure that there is a simple and flexible regime for the mutual recognition of enforcement of judgments for the future.

  • “Many months have elapsed since these points were made clear by the judiciary and the legal profession to Her Majesty’s Government. There is no reason for further delay.
  • “The common good and the national interest demand no less than the clearest commitment by Her Majesty’s Government on these issues. It is an essential support for the continued position and promotion of our laws, our courts, our judges, our arbitration centres and our legal profession and, of course, the major contribution they make to national prosperity, both in their own right and in the essential support of the financial services industry.”
  • The new justice secretary, David Lidington, was present at the dinner. Lord Thomas is due to retire in the coming months. His comments suggest there is considerable frustration over government failures to protect the UK’s position as an international legal centre. How the European court of justice in Luxembourg – the EU’s highest court – and the UK courts will deal with each other’s decisions is emerging as one of the key Brexit battlegrounds.
  • Remainers and soft Brexiters are urging ministers to ensure that there will be close cooperation, if not continued recognition of rulings to ensure businesses that trade with the EU are operating on equal terms. For Brexiters, however, it is a fundamental demand that the UK should be entirely free from the Luxembourg’s court jurisdiction.

Thomas also pointed out that last Thursday the EU published interim arrangements on applicable law, jurisdiction and enforcement of judgments. “It is not necessary for me to say how it is … urgent and important to have certainty about these interim arrangements,” the lord chief justice added.


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