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UK outlines approach to cross-border legal disputes post-Brexit

Reuters LONDON | Updated on January 09, 2018 Published on August 22, 2017

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Britain will outline ways on Tuesday to resolve cross-border civil disputes with the European Union after Brexit, adding to a list of proposals for future ties to try to nudge talks forward with the bloc.

In the third of five such papers to be published this week, the government will look at civil judicial cooperation, suggesting ways of tackling disputes ranging from marital cases to challenges brought by small businesses against EU suppliers.

The papers are part of efforts to move talks with the EU beyond simply settling the divorce between the two, to address their future relationship once Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019.

“Close cooperation in this area isn't just in the interest of the UK citizens living in the EU, it's in the interest of the 3.2 million EU citizens living here in Britain,” a government source said, adding, “For example, with more and more families living across borders, we need to make absolutely sure that if and when problems arise, they can be reassured that cross-border laws will apply to them in a fair and sensible way.”

The source offered no concrete measures beyond three points that the government's proposals would be based on—a commitment to build on the existing foundation of cooperation, continued collaboration at all levels and the development of judicial ties “as our societies and laws develop".

Justice minister David Lidington said Britain and the EU needed “an even closer set of cooperative arrangements amongst the countries that are near neighbours to protect citizens in cross-border disputes".

“If you're a German wife divorcing a British husband, if you are a British parent whose kids have been taken to Greece, if you are a Swede who's bought from a British company online and think you've been diddled in the deal, you want redress, you want this sorted out and you want it sorted out swiftly, without bureaucracy,” he told the BBC.

Alison McGovern, a pro-EU lawmaker from the opposition Labour party, said the proposals showed the “appalling error" made by Prime Minister Theresa May when she promised “take back control of our laws and bring an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Britain” — a pledge which could hamstring talks with the EU.

“To have any kind of relationship with Europe—be it on trade, citizens' rights or security—there will need to be a court in place to resolve disputes,” McGovern said.

“That court will include European judges, will have the power to make decisions that affect the UK, and most likely will shadow the ECJ in the vast majority of cases,” she said.

Published on August 22, 2017
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