17 August 2016

On 23 June 2016, the UK electorate voted to leave the European Union. Although EU law will continue to apply in the United Kingdom throughout the exit negotiation process, many changes in current laws will ensue once Article 50 is finalised.

Family | Judith Ball

Two key pieces of Family Law will be affected, the first, Brussels II (revised) Regulation which controls in which State a couple are entitled to seek a divorce which employs a strict rule that the first valid country where proceedings are issued is where the whole case will be heard. The second, The Maintenance Regulation, governs spousal maintenance and the enforcement of maintenance orders. This means spouses who are owed money can recover it faster and more cheaply than through traditional litigation. Further, as Brussels II Regulation also applies to disputes over children, there could be significant delays and serious distress for families without the ability to easily transfer cases within the EU. In particular, in the area of child abduction, different tests will need to be applied depending on which statute a particular country has signed up to. This is likely to make this often fraught and distressing area more complex, as well as extending the time it takes to have a child returned.

On a positive note, however, in the longer term, there will be an opportunity for the English Courts to make their own rules on jurisdiction. Many high value divorces frequently involve parties from non-EU nations, such as Russia and the Middle and Far East. The increased control that the English Courts will have over jurisdiction and potentially a greater exposure to the wider world could enable London, as the so-called divorce capital, to go from strength to strength.

Dispute Resolution | David Foster

No-on Dispute Resolution practice because the shape of legislation will depend upon the deal which the UK negotiates with its current EU members.

Some things are clear:

  1. There will be a good deal of confusion until final arrangements have been worked out.
  2. Contracting on the basis of the entity of the EU which included the UK may cause disputes where the UK’s departure leads to different tariffs in cross-border transactions.
  3. The UK’s restriction on free movement of goods and people may lead to some parties breaking contracts by arguing that their contracts have been frustrated.
  4. Some areas of law will need considerable legislation especially where much of the law is European based: competition law is one such example.
Much of the worry over Brexit may prove to be more apparent than real in terms of litigation but it really is a case of watch this space until the deal with the EU is done.

Employment | David Ludlow

There are more than 35 EU Directives that have resulted in UK employment legislation such as TUPE, the Working Time Regulations and the Agency Worker Regulations. But some Directives have been implemented through primary legislation.

This means that even if the EU Council and the UK Parliament do not agree some Norwegian-style ‘Brexit lite’ free trade arrangement that entails the continuation of EU employment laws, it will remain part of our body of employment laws in any event, unless that UK legislation is repealed. Examples include redundancy consultation requirements, equal pay and equal treatment laws contained in the Equality Act 2010.

Successive UK governments of different complexion have in fact enthusiastically gold plated much European law. Interestingly English Courts and Employment Tribunals have perhaps been more protective of workers’ rights than their European counterparts.

For further advice on the above topics, please call us on 01483 543210 or alternatively email