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Lawyers for Britain

We are a group of lawyers, legal academics, retired judges and constitutional specialists who came together to campaign for a Leave vote in the referendum. Now that the country has voted to leave the European Union,  we have also been joined by many lawyers who supported Remain but now wish to working constructively to make sure the exit process is carried out in the best interests of the United Kingdom. See Projects for information on our completed and ongoing legal projects.

Letter from Sir Richard Aikens to the Prime Minister opposing ECJ Jurisdiction after Brexit

As prominently reported in the Sunday Telegraph Tories at war over European judges amid claims UK heading for version of Brexit 'that effectively fails to leave EU' (behind paywall) and other newspapers on 3 December 2017, the Rt Hon Sir Richard Aikens, President of Lawyers for Britain and former Lord Justice of Appeal, has written to the Prime Minister in order to express his grave concerns over media suggestions that the government might be about to concede binding ECJ jurisdiction over the rights of EU nationals in the UK. The full text of Sir Richard's letter is here.

Analysing the Transition Period

The Prime Minisister's speech in Florence put forward the suggestion of an "implementation period" of about 2 years during which the UK would continue to be subject to many aspects of EU rules. The legal ramifications of this proposal are very complex, and we are publishing a series of papers which analyse different aspects. We have now published Part 1: Avoiding the negotiating noose. The next in the series is published by Politeia and summarised and downloadable on our website: Part 2: The high costs and small benefit of staying in the EU Customs Union

Adjudicating Treaty Rights in post-Brexit Britain

Preserving Sovereignty and Observing Comity

In our latest paper by Martin Howe QC, Francis Hoar and Dr Gunnar Beck, we publish detailed proposals for a system for the adjudication of treaty rights of EU citizens in post-Brexit Britain which avoids the ECJ having binding jurisdiction but encourages harmonious interpretation of treaty rights in accordance with principles of international comity: Summary  Full Paper.

The General Election

As a non-Party/cross-Party group, we did not campaign for or against any political parties or candidates. But Brexit was central to the election campaign and we carried out our important role in informing the public about the legal issues and intricacies which affect and lie behind many of the arguments.

The election result: a serious setback but not a catastrophe

Following the General Election, the previous tight but adequate margin for the Government in the House of Commons for negotiating terms with the EU and carrying the necessary Brexit legislation through Parliament reduced to a minority, but was bolstered by the confidence and supply agreement with the DUP. The Parliamentary situation has once again opened the door to arguments that there should be some kind of compromise or "soft Brexit" solution in which the UK remains a member of the EU Customs Union and/or Single Market after ceasing to be an  EU Member State.

The EU Customs Union and the Single Market -- or a Free Trade Agreement?

In The EU Customs Union and the Single Market after Brexit, Martin Howe QC sets out a detailed analysis of the consequences of the different policies of whether we should seek to stay in the EU Customs Union and/or Single Market after Brexit, or alternatively seek a Free Trade Agreement. There are clear and very important differences between these kinds of arrangements, which profoundly affect the future of the country, how we govern ourselves and our freedom of action in international trade.  But these differences are not well understood by the public, media and politicians. So this enormously useful guide helps public understanding of the pros and cons of the different arrangements.

The EU's financial claims against the UK

These financial claims - now apparently for €100bn or more - have been the subject of heated discussion in the Article 50 negotiations. Now we have published jointly with the European Research Group a new and updated Analysis of the UK’s potential financial liabilities by Martin Howe QC and Charlie Elphicke MP which looks at the legal arguments in depth, and concludes that most of the EU's claims are legally very weak.

EU citizens after Brexit: a fair settlement - or a privileged caste with superior rights enforced by a foreign court?

An early and fair settlement of the rights of EU citizens resident in the UK, and of UK citizens resident in the EU27, has been a priority for the British government. It also a appeared a priority for the EU27 when the European Council produced its negotiating guidelines. Unfortunately on 24 May 2017, the EU Commission produced a detailed Working Paper which goes far beyond the European Council's Guidelines and demands that EU citizens who at the date of Brexit reside, or have resided in the past, in the UK should keep in perpetuity all the rights they now have under EU law. These rights include, for example, the right to bring a non-EU spouse to live in a UK even in circumstances where UK citizens themselves would not have such a right. Even more significantly, the Commission's paper demands that these rights should be monitored by the Commission and enforced by the ECJ under the same machinery as applies to Member States, despite the fact that the UK after exit will no longer be a member and so will no longer nominate a judge to the ECJ. Martin Howe QC, Francis Hoar and Dr Gunnar Beck have looked into the issues in detail and have put their findings in a short post and a  full paper. They point out that it is virtually unknown in international practice for an independent State to submit itself to the courts of another treaty party, and have established that the ECJ does not have jurisdiction of the kind demanded that the UK should submit to, in any of the EU's many association and trade agreements -- even with tiny Andorra. They liken the demand for a class of resident non-citizens to enjoy superior rights to UK citizens enforced by a foreign court to the status of Western subjects in the Far East under unequal treaties making them subject to special extra-territorial courts and exempt from local law.

Jurisdiction of the Luxembourg Court after Brexit

One issue which has surfaced is whether the European Court of Justice should be given a continuing role in supervising areas of UK law after we leave, such as the rights of EU nationals who are resident here when we leave. Our committee member Dr Gunnar Beck explains the reasons why The European Court of Justice is not an impartial court and has no role to play in post-Brexit EU-UK relations

Our continuing role in the Article 50 process

The delivery of the Article 50 notification letter to Donald Tusk on 30 March 2017 was a watershed. It means that the question now is not if, but how and on what terms, the UK exits from the European Union. Many complex legal questions are involved in finding the best way of untangling ourselves from 45 years of membership, minimising disruption to our trading and other relationships with our European partners but at the same time maximising the freedom of our country to make the most of the opportunities of Brexit.

Preparations for exit will involve making changes to the UK's international treaty relationships and to its internal laws, as well as addressing the post-exit relationship between the UK and the remaining EU. We have published our step-by-step guidance to all the major aspects of this process in Brexit - how it will all work.

Joining us and following us

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