Bar Council Annual Report 2016-17

Aim 1 - Brexit

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Since the referendum result in June 2016, the Bar Council Brexit Working Group has played a leading role in evaluating the legal and constitutional implications of Brexit and has produced a raft of much-needed guidance for Government and the media on behalf of the profession and in the public interest.

The working group has also acted as a point of coordination for Brexit work carried out by the International and EU Law Committees.

“Government, Parliament and a wide range of media have used the specialist knowledge and expertise of the Bar through the Bar Council, which has successfully positioned the Brexit Working Group as a lead commentator on Brexit.”

-  Chair of the Bar Council Brexit Working Group, Hugh Mercer QC

Top of the working group's agenda has been securing movement for lawyers within Europe and other jurisdictions where barristers have benefitted from European trade agreements. It is vital for legal and associated professional services, as well as to businesses across a range of sectors, that legal professionals throughout the EU are able to continue to provide advice and legal representation to their clients.

In support of this objective, the Bar Council is represented on the Mutual Market Access Group (MMAG) which reports to the Professional and Business Services Council of the Department for Business, Enterprise, Innovation and Skills (BEIS). Included in the MMAG’s terms of reference is the need to explore the development of Mutual Recognition of Qualification Agreements (MRAs) and to submit market access negotiation requests to the Government on behalf of the professional and business services sector.

The Brexit Papers

A key output of the Brexit Working Group is the collection of Brexit Papers which offer Government, parliamentarians, the media and the public a concise and informative assessment of the legal challenges posed by leaving the EU. Now 24 in number, the papers cover issues ranging from the importance of the EU market for legal services, the role of the CJEU and the enforcement of judgments, to fisheries, agriculture and consumer law.

The Brexit Papers have been read at the highest levels of government across a range of departments, and have secured extensive coverage in both mainstream and specialist print, online and broadcast media.

Since the publication of the Brexit Papers, a number of the critical issues raised have been taken up by Parliament and Government, including addressing the question of mutual recognition of judgments.

The Justice Select Committee report on Implications of Brexit for the Justice System highlighted the importance of mutual recognition and enforcement of judgments for businesses and commerce, as well as for families and the vulnerable individuals impacted by such judgments. The Government spokesperson on justice, Lord Keen, has since also indicated support for this position.

“There is a mutual interest between the United Kingdom and the European Union in maintaining the ability to recognise choice of law and jurisdiction, and the ability to recognise the enforcement of judgments.”

- Government spokesperson on justice, Lord Keen of Elie, Hansard, 28 June 2017

Looking ahead

In addition to extensive coverage in mainstream press, the Brexit Papers also attracted attention from sector-specific media, including Farming UK. Chair of the Brexit Working Group, Hugh Mercer QC, also appeared on BBC Radio 4 Farming Today to discuss the impact of Brexit on farming and agriculture.

Stakeholders and networks

In addition to representation on the Mutual Market Access Group, the Bar Council also takes part in the following groups and committees:

  • The Brexit Law Committee:
    • Reports to Government and other interested parties on the consequences of Brexit for the UK legal system
    • Develops strategies for enhancing the use of UK law and legal services after Brexit, and
    • Provides a forum for considering and reporting on legal and commercial issues.
  • Ministry of Justice Legal Services Working Group
    • Coordinates the promotion of international legal services and leads on cross-sector projects
  • TheCityUK Legal Services Group
  • CCBE Brexit Task Force

Other highlights

  • The Chair and Vice-Chair of the Bar, and Chair of the Brexit Working Group have attended regular meetings of the BEIS Professional Services Council
  • The Brexit Working Group has received positive feedback from senior members of the civil service on the Brexit Papers; the papers are read at the highest levels of Government and are essential reading for civil servants in key areas
  • The Bar Council hosted a series of roundtable meetings with civil servants from a range of Government departments offering an in-depth analysis of the issues covered in the Brexit Papers, and
  • Chair of the Brexit Working Group Hugh Mercer QC spoke at the meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on what Brexit will mean for businesses and consumers.

The Bar Council does not seek to influence the Government's decision to leave or remain in the European Union, on which the Bar Council maintained, and continues to maintain, a politically neutral position.

Contact and further information

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Luke Robins-Grace
Senior Communications Adviser 
0207 630 4689