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Supreme Court seeks clarity on how to handle EU rulings after Brexit
October 5, 2017 / 11:10 AM / in 14 days

Supreme Court seeks clarity on how to handle EU rulings after Brexit

The President of the Supreme Court, Brenda Hale, poses for a formal portrait in this undated photograph received in London October 5, 2017. Kevin Leighton/UK Supreme Court/Handout via REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s Supreme Court would like clearer guidance from parliament on how it should deal with European Union court judgements after Brexit, its new president said on Thursday.

The issue of what weight, if any, judgements of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) will have in British law after the United Kingdom leaves the European Union is one of many thorny areas in the Brexit negotiations.

Brenda Hale, who was sworn in as president of the Supreme Court on Monday after serving as one of its justices for 13 years, said she and her colleagues were looking for guidance from parliament on the issue.

“We hope that the European Union Act, when it’s eventually passed, will tell us what we should be doing - giving us the power to take into account, or saying we must take into account, or saying we must ignore,” she told reporters.

“Whatever parliament decides we should do, we would like to be told because then we’ll get on and do it.”

A government policy paper issued in August said Britain wished to leave the “direct jurisdiction” of the ECJ while also recognising that future civil judicial cooperation would need to take into account “regional legal arrangements” such as the ECJ.

FILE PHOTO - A man waves a European Union flag outside the Supreme Court before the decision of a court ruling on whether Theresa May's government requires parliamentary approval to start the process of leaving the European Union, in Parliament Square, central London, Britain, January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

The European Union says that for certain issues, such as the rights of EU citizens in Britain, the ECJ must continue to have its say - a stance strongly rejected by the most ardent advocates of Brexit.

Hale said the government policy papers issued over the summer were “at quite a high level of generality” and described them as aspirational.

But she praised the formulation used by Prime Minister Theresa May in a major speech on Brexit in Florence on Sept. 22. May said that where there was uncertainty around EU law, she wanted UK courts to be able to “take into account” ECJ judgements.

“‘Take account’ is quite useful because it does give one the power to take it into account, but also the power to say ‘for the following good reasons, we think something else,'” said Hale.

Her deputy, Jonathan Mance, said the form of words used in the EU Withdrawal Bill currently going through parliament was “a weaker formula”.

The bill says that British courts “need not have regard to anything done on or after exit day by the European Court ... but may do so if it considers it appropriate to do so”.

Editing by Stephen Addison

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