Brexit: Dispute Resolution and Enforcement (European Union Committee Report) - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:11 pm on 17th October 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia Conservative 5:11 pm, 17th October 2018

My Lords, thank you for allowing me to add a bit about matrimonial law post Brexit. We are being deafened by the Government’s silence in relation to many areas, in particular to the area of divorce itself. At the moment, the clutch of Brussels II legislation that deals with a variety of things, including the enforcement of maintenance and children’s matters, also deals with divorce. The rules are simple: the first seized court has jurisdiction if the competing court has signed up to Brussels II. We do not know what is going to happen post Brexit.

Let us take the situation of two people living in England who are both French nationals and file for divorce. We do not know the position, if those two French nationals who have jurisdiction in France then file in France, whether we should apply for an anti-suit injunction, whether the French court will recognise the English court as the first court or whether the English court should recognise the French court because they are French nationals. This will lead to an unholy mess and, with no legal aid, the courts are not equipped to deal with it. It will affect children, individuals and the profession. Judges are not trained in this sort of jurisdiction because for the past 20-odd years we have applied under Brussels II. Foreign court venue arguments are rare and non-existent in Brussels II countries. We need certainty; there is no knowledge of what is going to happen. This is a small area of uncertainty that needs to be addressed and I hope that the Minister will look at it, because those who practise in this area, of whom I am one, are nervous and worried about what is going to happen and how we can best serve the human beings who come to us for advice.

I conclude by saying that the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, has done an amazing job keeping us, the evidence and all the witnesses in order, and for producing this excellent and succinct report with the aid of the committee’s staff, one of whom is in the Chamber today. We are deeply grateful to them all.