London keen to maintain EU accord over civil court cases

23 August 2017, Belfast Telegraph.

Cross-border divorce and child custody battles and business disputes could become messier and lengthier unless Britain can secure agreement to maintain judicial co-operation arrangements with the EU after Brexit.

In a paper published ahead of talks in Brussels next week, the UK Government says that it is “vital” for millions of families, businesses and consumers for Britain and the EU to agree “coherent common rules” for civil cases following withdrawal.

The UK is seeking a new arrangement which would “mirror closely” the EU system for deciding which country’s court should hear a civil, commercial or family dispute raising cross-border issues, whose laws should apply and how decisions should be enforced.

If Britain leaves without a deal, UK citizens could find themselves falling back on international rules set out in agreements such as the Hague Convention, which are slower and less effective than the EU system.

And rival sides in a dispute could end up launching court cases in the UK and another EU state without agreement on which ruling is definitive.

The problem could affect Britons involved in divorce, custody and child maintenance battles with EU-born spouses, companies suing continental suppliers or consumers seeking compensation for faulty European goods.

The European Commission has so far set out proposals only for dealing with cases already under way, and Brexit Secretary David Davis is now pressing for early discussion on arrangements for co-operation after the UK leaves the direct jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Announcing plans to seek “new close and comprehensive arrangements” for civil judicial co-operation with the EU, reflecting “closely” the existing rules, the Government paper states: “We have a shared interest with the EU in ensuring these new arrangements are thorough and effective.”