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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:37 pm on 17th October 2018.

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Photo of Lord Callanan Lord Callanan Minister of State (Department for Exiting the European Union) 5:37 pm, 17th October 2018

If the noble Baroness will have a little patience, I will come on to talk about the agencies and the remit of the ECJ.

Withdrawal from the EU will mean a return to the situation where the UK and the EU have their own autonomous legal orders. The Government agree with the committee’s observation that the withdrawal agreement and the future partnership must respect the autonomy and integrity of both legal orders.

On the points made by the noble Lords, Lord Thomas and Lord Anderson, this is not about demonising the CJEU in any way. Our position has always been that we respect the role of the CJEU as the ultimate arbiter of the meaning of EU law, and we respect the autonomy of the EU legal order, as indeed we expect it to respect ours. However, it would be wholly unprecedented for a non-member state to be subject to the jurisdiction of the CJEU, and we do not believe that it would be appropriate for the court of one party to resolve disputes between the two.

There are, of course, limitations under EU law on the extent to which the EU can be bound by an international judicial body other than the CJEU. Therefore, we will also need to find a principled and pragmatic solution to respecting our unique status as a third country with our own sovereign legal order. For these reasons, the EU and the UK need to agree on how both the provisions of the withdrawal agreement and our new deep and special partnership can be monitored and implemented to the satisfaction of both sides, and how any disputes that arise can be resolved.

As the committee acknowledged in its report, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution for dispute resolution after our exit. Despite the fact that dispute resolution mechanisms are common within international agreements, the form these mechanisms take varies considerably across the spectrum of agreements, given the different areas of international co-operation, and consequently the varied nature of potential disputes that could arise. That is why we are negotiating bespoke mechanisms across the different areas where we need a dispute resolution mechanism.

The sub-committee and noble Lords have raised concerns on the rights of EU citizens. Let me assure the House that, in setting out governance principles, we will ensure that the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, and of course UK nationals living in the EU, are safeguarded. This reflects the fact that the Prime Minister made it clear that that was her first priority for negotiations. The agreement reached in December and set out in our joint report with the Commission, alongside Part Two of the withdrawal agreement, will provide these citizens with certainty about their rights going forward.

In the UK, EU citizens’ rights will be upheld by incorporating Part Two of the withdrawal agreement into our law. As the noble Lord, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, noted, there will be a time-limited period when our courts may choose to refer questions on specific points of law concerning citizens’ rights to the CJEU for a decision, having had regard to whether relevant case law exists, but it will be up to our courts to decide whether do so. Let me reassure the noble Lord that it will be for our courts to make final judgments, not the CJEU. Any continuing CJEU role in our legal system will be temporary and narrowly defined. The ability of UK courts to make voluntary references to the CJEU will, as the noble Lord is aware, be time-limited to eight years. These short-term limited arrangements have been agreed to help ensure consistency and certainty for citizens over these new rights as they are implemented.

For the implementation period to operate effectively, the UK will need to remain in step with the EU. The withdrawal agreement will be underpinned by a duty of good faith, with a joint committee in place enabling either side to raise issues or concerns. These arrangements will help ensure the implementation period works properly for both sides. We have agreed that, for the implementation period, the existing EU mechanisms for supervision and enforcement will apply, including continued CJEU jurisdiction. This is necessary so that there will be one set of changes for businesses and people. I hope that that reassures the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, and the noble Lord, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, who raised their concerns about the need for certainty during the transition period. This does not change the fact that in the long term, after the end of the implementation period, the UK will no longer be under the jurisdiction of the CJEU.

Let me answer the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Swansea, by making it clear that the implementation period will not be extended. I thank him for the offer of co-operation from the Bar Council; we continue to have regular consultations with lawyers in practice, as well as the judiciary, on all aspects of the complicated legal mechanisms in both the withdrawal Act and the future partnership.