August 21, 2017 / 9:12 PM / a year ago

UK outlines approach to cross-border legal disputes post-Brexit

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain urged the EU on Tuesday to stick to the existing system for resolving cross-border civil disputes after Brexit, expanding on a list of proposals for future ties to try to nudge talks forward with the bloc.

EU and British flags fly outside the European Commission building in London, Britain August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall

In the third of five papers to be published this week, the government outlined how it wanted to maintain close cooperation with the European Union in tackling disputes ranging from marital cases to challenges by small businesses against EU suppliers.

The proposals followed a pattern in which Britain has sought to mirror much of its existing relationship with the EU.

But in this case the government repeated its desire to dispense with the “direct jurisdiction” of the EU’s court.

“International civil judicial cooperation is in the mutual interest of consumers, citizens, families and businesses in the EU and in the UK,” the government said in its latest “future partnership paper”.

“That framework would be on a reciprocal basis, which would mirror closely the current EU system and would provide a clear legal basis to support cross-border activities, after the UK’s withdrawal.”

The government hopes that by basing an agreement on many of the systems already in place, it can push forward the negotiations to unravel more than 40 years of union.

Britain wants to start talking about future ties after it leaves the bloc in March 2019, but the EU wants to see “sufficient progress” in talks on the divorce - including a financial settlement - before moving on.

Justice minister David Lidington said Britain and the EU needed “an even closer set of cooperative arrangements” to protect citizens in cross-border disputes.

EU and British flags fly outside the European Commission building in London, Britain August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall

“If you’re a German wife divorcing a British husband, if you are a British parent whose kids have been taken to Greece, if you are a Swede who’s bought from a British company online and think you’ve been diddled in the deal, you want redress... without bureaucracy,” he told the BBC.

The paper offered almost no detail on how it expected to keep much of the current legal relationship with the European Union while ending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice - a pledge made by Prime Minister Theresa May which could hamstring talks with the EU.

But the government did say it understood it would have to take into account “regional legal agreements, including the fact that the ECJ will remain the ultimate arbiter of EU law within the EU”.

Alison McGovern, a pro-EU lawmaker from the opposition Labour party, said the proposals showed the “appalling error” made by May when she promised to end the ECJ’s jurisdiction over Britain.

“To have any kind of relationship with Europe - be it on trade, citizens’ rights or security - there will need to be a court in place to resolve disputes,” McGovern said.

“That court will include European judges, will have the power to make decisions that affect the UK, and most likely will shadow the ECJ in the vast majority of cases.”

Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by John Stonestreet

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