Ministers move to provide ‘certainty’ for EU and UK citizens over cross-border disputes

Brexit Secretary David Davis
Brexit Secretary David Davis

BrExit Secretary David Davis will tomorrow set out proposals to ensure that cross-border legal disputes are dealt with in a “fair and sensible way” after Brexit.

A paper setting out the UK’s position on future co-operation with civil courts in the EU will say that families, businesses and individuals need “certainty” about how their cases will be dealt with following Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.

Its publication follows the release of two further negotiating papers on the movement of goods and protection of official documents in anticipation of the third round of formal talks next Monday. This week is also expected to see the Government set out its position on the future jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) – a key sticking point for many on both sides of the Brexit debate.

Commenting ahead of tomorrow’s paper, a Government source said “close cooperation” on civil justice matters is in the interest of both UK citizens living in the EU “[and] the 3.2 million EU citizens living here in Britain”.

“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,” they said.

“By setting out a very clear position on this, we hope we will be able to work with the Commission to agree a reasoned approach that works for families here in Britain and across the EU.”

The new framework will replace existing arrangements under the EU’s civil judicial co-operation system.

The UK proposals are designed to ensure there is clarity about which country’s courts will hear a case, which country’s laws will be used to resolve it and how judgments in one country will be enforced in another, said officials.

But Labour MP and Open Britain supporter Alison McGovern has criticised the proposals, as well as the Government’s determination to end the influence of the ECJ.

“The vagueness and incoherence of the Government’s proposals prove what an appalling error they committed by making ending the jurisdiction of the ECJ a red line in negotiations,” she said.

“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. 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.

“The Government will end up taking back control from one court and immediately handing it to another – which is hardly what millions of people had in mind when they voted for Brexit.”