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Leaving the EU: Legal Jurisdictions

Volume 630: debated on Tuesday 31 October 2017

4. What assessment his Department has made of the effect of the UK leaving the EU on the legal system of each legal jurisdiction. (901515)

We recognise the distinct legal systems across the UK. We engage with our counterparts in the devolved Administrations to prepare the ground for Brexit, in terms both of achieving a smooth transition on things such as civil and judicial co-operation and of seizing the global opportunities for the UK legal sector, which contributed around £25 billion to the UK economy last year.

That being the case, what actual steps has the Department taken to ensure that Scottish legal services and the Scottish legal system are protected when the UK leaves the EU?

There is a two-part answer to that. First, in relation to the negotiations with our EU partners, we are very focused on making sure that the current co-operation continues as well and as optimally as possible. Secondly, in relation to the legal position, the EU withdrawal position will make sure that there is legal certainty for citizens across the UK.

20. The Government’s “Legal Services are GREAT” campaign, which was launched in Singapore earlier this month, focuses solely on the global promotion of the English legal system; it contains no mention of Scotland or Northern Ireland. Will the Minister see that that is rectified prior to the campaign’s domestic launch later this year? (901532)

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that we are absolutely committed to promoting every one of Scotland’s finest exports, from whisky through to its brilliant lawyers.

The Government’s EU position papers on enforcement and dispute resolution and on security, law enforcement and justice have significant implications for the Scottish legal system and for areas of law devolved to the Scottish Parliament. Yet, in advance of the publication of those papers, there was absolutely no consultation with the Scottish Government or the Scottish Law Officers. What assurance can the Minister give me that such oversight will not happen again?

I do not know about the specific drafting in the papers, but there was considerable dialogue with all the devolved Administrations on the substance underpinning the position papers and the negotiating position that the UK has taken.

Sir David Edward, a distinguished jurist and a former judge at the Court of Justice, recently gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament about these papers. He said, and I quote, that “the UK Government has overlooked the significance of the separate Scottish legal system, the Scottish judicial system and the Scottish prosecution system in relation to justice and home affairs issues such as Europol, the European Arrest Warrant, cross-border information systems and the conventions and regulations about recognition and enforcement of judgments.” Will the Minister undertake to meet me so that these oversights might be rectified?

I thank the hon. and learned Lady, but she has not actually pointed to one aspect, one paragraph or one point in the position paper that she thinks we have got wrong. We certainly accept, recognise and, indeed, embrace the huge contribution that the Scottish justice and legal systems make. In relation to the justice and home affairs strand of the negotiations, we will of course bear in mind very closely the different contours across the whole UK.