UK to urge 'close co-operation' on cross-border legal disputes after Brexit

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Britain is to set out proposals to ensure that cross-border legal disputes are dealt with in a "fair and sensible way" after Brexit.

A paper setting out the UK's position on future co-operation with civil courts in the EU will say that families, businesses and individuals need "certainty" about how their cases will be dealt with following Britain's withdrawal from the European Union.

Continued close judicial co-operation will be "crucial" for millions of EU citizens living in the UK and Brits on the continent, as well as tens of thousands of businesses which buy, sell and invest across borders and many ordinary people who get caught up in legal disputes, the paper will say.

The proposals being published by David Davis's Department for Exiting the EU on Tuesday are the latest in a slew of position papers setting out the UK Government's position ahead of the third round of formal Brexit talks in Brussels next week. Most explosive is likely to be a paper on future relations with the European Court of Justice, expected in the coming days.

Britain is calling for a new reciprocal framework for civil law based on commitments to build on existing co-operation and to continue collaboration across borders.

The proposals are designed to cover cases ranging from business disputes with EU-based companies and British consumers taking legal action over defective products supplied by firms on the continent to divorce, custody or child maintenance battles involving families with members resident in one of the 27 remaining EU states.

A UK Government source said: "Close co-operation in this area isn't just in the interest of the UK citizens living in the EU, it's in the interest of the 3.2 million EU citizens living here in Britain.

"For example, with more and more families living across borders, we need to make absolutely sure that if and when problems arise, they can be reassured that cross-border laws will apply to them in a fair and sensible way.

"By setting out a very clear position on this, we hope that we will be able to work with the (European) Commission to agree a reasoned approach that works for families here in Britain and across the European Union."

The UK proposals are designed to ensure there is clarity about which country's courts will hear a case, which country's laws will be used to resolve it and how judgments in one country will be enforced in another, said officials.

The new framework would replace existing arrangements under which the UK is part of the EU's civil judicial co-operation system, which provides a clear set of rules to manage cross-border disputes.

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said: "Each Brexit paper the Government releases leaves us with more questions than answers. Even Brussels must have had enough of this waffle by now.

"The Conservatives are admitting the current system has served British citizens well, giving them certainty that the same rules will apply across Europe. So why are ministers hell-bent on ripping up this system and plunging British citizens abroad and EU citizens here into uncertainty?

"No clarity has been given over which court will resolve disputes and how this will work in practice.

"The Government doesn't even seem to know what it wants to negotiate, so how can it possibly secure a good deal for Britain?"