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UK Not to be Bound by EU Law Post-Brexit, Says Prime Minister

UK Not to be Bound by EU Law Post-Brexit, Says Prime Minister

UK and ECJ Jurisdiction

In a new policy paper, Theresa May has claimed that the UK would “take back control of our laws” and be free from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) after Brexit. However, the policy paper also stipulated that the ECJ would keep its jurisdiction during the UK’s move away from the EU and that the UK will work with the EU on the “arrangements for judicial supervision” during this period.

EU citizens living in the UK post-Brexit will be subject to UK laws

The paper also declared that the rights of EU citizens living in the UK post-Brexit will be subject to British laws, stating that giving the ECJ authority over EU-UK disputes would not be “fair and neutral”. The response from the government reinforces Theresa May’s position on maintaining the UK’s legal rule over EU citizens living in the UK after Brexit, reflecting the statements of the June documents on EU citizens’ rights in the UK, which stated that EU citizens’ obligations and rights “will be enforced by the UK courts”.

A climbdown by Theresa May?

In response to the latest paper published by the government, many have spoken out about what they perceive to be Theresa May’s softer stance on what the UK will look like after Brexit comes into full effect. The Financial Times David Allen Green says the paper offers options, rather than solutions, and that “None of those options is consistent with a ‘hard’ Brexit of removing the ECJ’s role completely.”

Furthermore, the shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, argues that Theresa May’s stance contradicts her earlier promises to take a hard line on the role of the ECJ in influencing UK law, claiming: “The repeated reference to ending the ‘direct jurisdiction’ of the ECJ is potentially significant. This appears to contradict the red line laid out in the prime minister’s Lancaster House speech and the government’s white paper, which stated there could be no future role of the ECJ and that all laws will be interpreted by judges in this country.”

Supporters of a softer approach to Brexit welcome new stance

Many politicians were supportive of what they perceived to be a ‘softer’ stance outlined in the new government paper. The new leader of the Liberal Democrats, Vince Cable, welcomed the stance taken by the Conservative government, stating: “We welcome this sensible and long overdue climb down by the prime minister. It shows Theresa May’s red lines are becoming more blurred by the day. The government seems to have belatedly accepted it won’t be possible to end the EU court’s influence in the UK without damaging our free trade and security cooperation with Europe.”

Meanwhile, Labour MP Andrew Adonis, who is a supporter of the soft-Brexit campaign group Open Britain, highlighted how the latest government paper reinforces the government’s desire to maintain a strong partnership with the EU. He said:

“Not much is left of [Brexit Secretary] David Davis’s so-called red line of taking back control from European judges . . . In almost every example the government gives – from the Efta court, to the EEA agreement to the EU-Moldova deal – the ECJ has substantial direct or indirect power over the proposed new relationship between Britain and the EU. And they have confirmed that every past judgment of the ECJ will stand after we leave.”

Adonis said that while on the surface it may appear that Theresa May is reinforcing her ‘hard line’ that would see the UK severing all ties with the ECJ after Brexit, the policy paper was, in fact, a “climb down camouflaged in jingoistic rhetoric.”

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