Leaving the EU: Legal Services

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:54 pm on 21st November 2018.

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Photo of Bob Neill Bob Neill Chair, Justice Committee 4:54 pm, 21st November 2018

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Christopher. I warmly congratulate my hon. Friend Mr Djanogly on securing the debate. I congratulate the all-party group on legal and constitutional affairs on its excellent report, which mirrors the Justice Committee’s conclusions in our report in the 2016-17 Session on the implications of Brexit for the justice system, especially in the areas that relate to co-operation in civil and commercial law. Our report, of course, went further and stressed the importance of continuing co-operation on criminal law and law enforcement, but our conclusions on the civil front are exactly in line with those of the all-party group. That is not surprising, because the evidence is entirely consistent.

My hon. Friend John Howell, who serves on the Committee with me, stressed the other issue that we want to raise: family law. This is not just about the clients of big commercial firms. The ability to enforce judgments makes a difference to parents who are seeking to get maintenance from a partner in another EU jurisdiction. At the moment they can enforce their maintenance agreement without any difficulty, but they would be at a grave disadvantage if they were not able to do so.

Many of us will remember the problems that arose in the past with the growth of what is called parallel litigation in family cases, in relation to divorce, financial arrangements and child custody arrangements. The last thing we want is a crash-out arrangement. In theory, that would mean that, as of 1 April next year, a parent in the UK and one in another EU jurisdiction would be capable of commencing parallel proceedings in family matters.