- May to water down her pledge to remove Britain from the jurisdiction of European courts post-Brexit.
- Rulings by foreign judges will continue to apply to the UK.
- Issue likely to be controversial with hardline Brexit-supporting Conservatives.
- May to release her position on the European Court of Justice on Wednesday.
LONDON — The UK government will today confirm Theresa May has backed down on her promise to make Britain totally independent from the influence of European judges when they release their Brexit negotiation plans on cross-border legal cases.
The Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU) will at midday release a paper conceding that the rulings of foreign judges will continue to apply to British individuals and businesses even after Britain leaves the EU in March 2019, the Guardian reports.
The position paper, the third to be published this week, will outline May’s acceptance that rulings made in other EU member states could be applied to family, consumer and business disputes that involve parties based in Britain and that EU member state.
“A judgment obtained in one country can be recognised and enforced in another,” a government source told the Guardian.
“… 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.”
For example, a parent in Britain who wants to settle child custody with an ex-partner living in another EU member state could be subject to the rulings of judges in that EU member state, like Germany, France or Spain.
A spokesperson for DEeXU said: “These could relate to issues such as a small business that has been left out of pocket by a supplier based in another EU country, a consumer who wants to sue a business in another country for a defective product they have purchased online, or a person who needs to settle divorce child custody or child maintenance issues with a family member who is living in a different EU country.”
May struggling to keep her word
Senior ministers will claim this is a separate issue to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) which settles matters of EU law. DEeXU is set to confirm its position on the ECJ in a Brexit position paper released on Wednesday.
However, May has put judicial independence at the very heart of her Brexit vision. “We will not have truly left the European Union if we are not in control of our own laws,” she declared in her Lancaster House speech in January.
“We’re going to talk about Britain in which we are close friends, allies and trading partners with our European neighbours. But a Britain in which we pass our own laws and govern ourselves. But a Britain in which we pass our own laws and govern ourselves,” she said at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham in October.
The prime minister’s promise to cut Britain free from the influence of European judges was well-received by the party’s staunch Brexiteers but whether it’s a promise she can keep is in increasing doubt.
Labour MP and Europhile Alison McGovern criticised May for making European law a “red line” in Brexit negotiations. May’s hostility to European law is long-standing and dates back to her time in the Home Office.
“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,” McGovern 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.”