09 May 2019

Brexit legal effect “exaggerated”

Speaking at the inaugural London International Disputes Week, top British judges put the impact of Brexit on UK courts in perspective.

By Dr David Cowan


The likely legal impact of Brexit on English law and the UK’s role in international dispute resolution, has been “exaggerated,” uncertainty will “recede” and is unlikely to have the  “dramatic effect” people suggest.


Lord justice Hamblen, lord justice of appeal, is one of the architects of the financial list, which since its inception in October 2015, there has been a total of 64 cases in the financial list, 34 through Chancery and 30 through the Commercial Court. He explained, “In my view, the likely legal impact of Brexit on English law and the UK’s role in international dispute resolution, including in the financial services sector, has been exaggerated.” In respect to choice of governing law, he argued “for the vast majority of international commercial agreements, Brexit is unlikely to make any difference to the substantive law applicable or as to whether parties should continue to choose English law.” Lord justice Hamblen also explained the potential difficulties of enforcement post-Brexit should not be exaggerated, “The UK government’s stated position is that it will seek to agree a framework of civil judicial co-operation with the EU which would ‘mirror closely the current EU system’.”

Receding uncertainty

Lord Burnett of Maldon said, “Others will be talking this week about the impact of Brexit on London as a venue for dispute resolution. Uncertainty itself has a damaging impact on much commercial activity but once uncertainty recedes so too, I expect, will this concern.” He explained, “What leads me to this conclusion? The answer lies in the fundamental features of English law, the skills of English lawyers, the integrity and expertise of the judiciary and its
willingness to innovate.” Lord Burnett concluded, “When we take together all these factors – our commitment to the rule of law; the common law’s stability, predictability and flexibility; the strength of our legal profession; judicial expertise and integrity; and our willingness and ability to embrace innovation in its various forms; I have little doubt that English law’s position on the world stage will be secure in the years to come.”

Dramatic effect?

Chancellor of the High Court, Sir Geoffrey Vos, said “The short answer to the question of what effect Brexit will have on Financial Services Disputes in London is that it will probably not, I think, have quite the dramatic effect that some people have suggested.” Sir Geoffrey asked, “Does Brexit make English law less attractive?” to which he responded “Brexit does not affect the English common law at all.” However, he concluded, “Undoubtedly, Brexit has caused many international businesses to pause for thought when choosing English law and the UK jurisdiction. Many are, we know, waiting to see.”

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