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Leaving the EU: Legal System

Volume 637: debated on Tuesday 6 March 2018

9. What assessment his Department has made of the effect of the UK leaving the EU on the operation of the legal system in each jurisdiction of the UK. (904196)

We are seeking a new deep and special partnership with the EU that works for the whole United Kingdom. Of course, Scotland and Northern Ireland have distinct legal systems. That is why, in the negotiations on civil judicial co-operation, market access for our legal services and criminal justice, I want a deal that works for Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as England and Wales. That is also why my Department is meeting regularly with the devolved Administrations to look at the ways in which our legal and justice systems are affected by EU exit.

Unlike the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, the Scottish Government’s legal continuity Bill gives the Scottish Parliament an enhanced role in scrutinising legal changes to devolved laws due to Brexit. What is the Secretary of State doing to urge his Cabinet colleagues to make similar provision for this Parliament for reserved matters in the EU withdrawal Bill?

In terms of what is described as the continuity Bill, I am not sure, in all honesty, how helpful or useful that will prove to be. The reality is that there is very close scrutiny in this House of the measures the Government are taking and the negotiations we are having.

The hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (John Lamont) has the next question, so he does not have long to wait. We are saving him up for the delectation of the House. It will be a short wait.

Is the Secretary of State looking forward to April next year, when each of the jurisdictions across the United Kingdom will be able to fashion and formulate legislation in keeping with the demands and the requirements of the people of the United Kingdom?

The hon. Gentleman states his position very clearly and forthrightly. As we leave the European Union, new flexibilities will arise for all parts of the United Kingdom.

Unlike the EU withdrawal Bill, the Scottish Government’s legal continuity Bill contains a power to enable devolved law in Scotland to keep pace with EU law after Brexit, where appropriate. Does the Secretary of State agree that similar provisions should be made in the EU withdrawal Bill for reserved matters and for the benefit of the English legal system?

The extent to which this Parliament decides that it wishes to replicate provisions of EU law is a matter for this Parliament, and whether or not we put that in the EU withdrawal Bill, that freedom will continue to exist for this Parliament.

Another point of contrast between the Scottish Government’s legal continuity Bill and the EU withdrawal Bill is that the Scottish Government’s Bill incorporates the charter of fundamental rights into Scots law in so far as it applies to devolved matters. What is the Secretary of State doing to make sure that everyone in the United Kingdom keeps their rights guaranteed by the charter, regardless of which jurisdiction they live in?

When the charter of fundamental rights was brought in, the argument was made at the time that it was essentially replicating rights set out elsewhere in other parts of EU treaties. To the extent that that fundamentally changes matters, there is certainly a debate to be had about it.