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Lords remain concerned about Government’s post-Brexit civil justice and family law plans

Tuesday 29 September 2020

On Tuesday 15 September, the House of Lords EU Security and Justice Sub-Committee took evidence from the Rt Hon Lord Keen of Elie, Advocate General for Scotland and Spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice in the House of Lords, about the implications of Brexit for the UK’s already stretched family law system.

Members of the Committee questioned the Minister about the consequences of the Government’s decision to turn its back on a range of important EU legislation governing civil justice cooperation at the end of December, without negotiating adequate alternatives with the EU 27.

The Minister told the Committee that alternative non-EU arrangements (the Lugano and the Hague Conventions) provided adequate ways of addressing divorce proceedings, international child abduction and maintenance arrangements. Members nonetheless remain concerned that individuals dealing with family breakdown will face increased delays and legal fees as the UK’s family courts endeavour to cope with a new regime introducing different remedies for European cases.

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Lord Ricketts, Chair of the EU Security and Justice Sub-Committee, said:

“The Brussels Regime of EU Regulations formed the back-bone of civil justice cooperation between the UK and the EU for the last 20 years. The Government has chosen not to continue cooperating with the EU on this well-established basis. Like law enforcement collaboration, this is another area of the future relationship with the EU which gets very little media attention.

“Previous inquiries by House of Lords Committees have shown that this EU legislation has proved very useful for many UK and EU citizens at stressful moments in their life such as family breakdown. They have also concluded that the non-EU alternatives on which the Government intends to fall back after the end of the transition period are seriously inadequate.

“While the Committee welcomes the Government’s efforts to alleviate the loss of the EU Regulations by, for example, securing participation in the Lugano Convention, we remain very concerned that the family court system will struggle to adjust to the significant changes that will result from leaving the EU Regulations at the end of the year”.

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