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Analysis

Express distorts chief justice’s words

by Sam Ashworth-Hayes | 06.07.2017

In addition to the usual dose of incoherent anger, readers of the Express this morning might have noticed a small triumph for the Andrea Leadsom school of patriotism. The lord chief justice, Lord Thomas, has apparently described as a “lie” ‘remoaner’ claims that Brexit will damage London’s status as the world’s courtroom. Finally, it seems, a distinguished expert with his head in the right place, backing Britain and giving Brexit a vote of confidence. Except, well, not really….

Thomas was actually making the argument that leaving the EU would not affect the quality and certainty of English law and courts. He was attempting to quash rumours put forward by our “competitors”. So unless France is now categorised as one great collective of remoaners, the Express has got hold of the wrong end of the stick.

Thomas did not say that Brexit will have no effect on London’s status. As the Bruegel think-tank has pointed out, the UK’s position as Europe’s go-to legal arena relies on UK court rulings being enforceable across the EU. Post-Brexit, negotiating this status “might prove to be a lengthy and uncertain process”, according to Bruegel.

Thomas was less than sanguine about the government’s approach so far. Calling out May’s government for its lack of progress, he said a simple, flexible regime for the mutual recognition of enforcement of judgments was essential: “Many months have elapsed since these points were made clear by the judiciary… to Her Majesty’s Government.”

The significance of mutual enforcement was something the Express curiously opted to skip over, instead choosing to comment on the importance of the UK being ”entirely free from the clutches” of the European Court of Justice’s jurisdiction.

But as Brexiters are slowly, painfully learning, there is always a trade-off. You can take back control, but at a cost. If you do not want free movement, you cannot expect single market access. If you do not want shared laws, you cannot expect untrammelled financial services across borders. And if you do not want mutually enforceable judgements, you cannot expect to be Europe’s legal centre.

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Edited by Alan Wheatley