Take back control? Row over EU law in UK after Brexit
Theresa May insisted the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will end after Brexit, but there remained questions over whose laws will apply to EU citizens in the UK.Updated: Aug 23, 2017 21:45 IST
Sensitive issues are yet to be discussed between the UK and the EU in Brexit talks, but a position paper published by the Theresa May government on Wednesday raised doubts whether London will be able to “take back control” of its laws – one of the red lines of exiting the bloc.
“Take back control” was a popular pro-Brexit slogan during the EU referendum.
May insisted the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) will end after Brexit, but there remained questions over whose laws will apply to EU citizens in the UK and for businesses that operate across national borders.
Critics said the ECJ may continue have jurisdiction over UK for years after Brexit, as indicated by this section in the paper: “The UK will engage constructively to negotiate an approach to enforcement and dispute resolution, which meets the key objectives of both the UK and the EU in underpinning the effective operation of a new, deep and special partnership.”
As Brexit supporters alleged May was abandoning the hardline position she set out in last year’s Conservative Party conference speech and at Lancaster House in January, justice minister Dominic Raab conceded London would have to keep “half an eye” on ECJ rulings in the post-Brexit situation.
The paper also did not rule out ECJ jurisdiction during the Brexit transition period, planned after March 2019, stating that the UK will work with the EU on the “arrangements for judicial supervision”. This is seen as a climbdown by the May government.
But May insisted: “What we will be able to do is to make our own laws — Parliament will make our laws — it is British judges that will interpret those laws, and it will be the British Supreme Court that will be the ultimate arbiter of those laws.”
Keir Starmer, Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, said: “The prime minister’s ideological insistence that there can be no future role whatsoever for the ECJ or any similar court-like body risks preventing the deal Britain needs.”
Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable alleged May’s “red lines are becoming more blurred by the day”, saying the ECJ had “served Britain’s interests well” and should not be “trashed”.
As the paper states, EU law has direct effect within the legal orders of member-states, a principle to which the UK gives effect through the European Communities Act 1972. EU membership has meant an intrinsic link between the EU’s legal order and the legal systems in the UK.
“Withdrawal from the EU will mean a return to the situation where the UK and the EU have their own autonomous legal orders. The Withdrawal Agreement and the future partnership must respect the autonomy and integrity of both legal orders,” it adds.
First Published: Aug 23, 2017 21:45 IST