Brexit could boost London as world legal centre, Lord Neuberger says

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Jul 05, 2017
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Outside of the EU Britain could react more quickly to global developments, the president of the Supreme Court said

Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

Brexit could boost rather than undermine London’s standing as the world’s legal centre, the UK’s most senior judge has said.

Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, president of the Supreme Court, said that the judiciary and legal profession in the UK take pride in the leading role the country has in the provision of legal services and dispute resolution. “We are determined,” he said, “that the UK’s forthcoming exit from the European Union will in no way undermine London’s status as the world centre for legal services generally and dispute resolution in particular”.

The common law would remain as attuned to the needs of business as it ever was and once British judges were “left to our own common law devices” they would be able to respond more quickly and freely to global developments, he added. Breixt would act “as a spur” to further improvements, Lord Neuberger said in a speech to the Australian Bar Association that has just been published. He was speaking at the association’s biennial conference in London and Dublin this week.

The comments from the UK’s most senior judge will be welcomed by those who fear that Brexit threatens London’s position as the world’s primary centre for dispute resolution, with the potential loss of billions of pounds a year that the legal services industry generates. “Brexit does not alter the fact that lawyers and judges in the UK are as internationally minded and expert as they ever have been,” Lord Neuberger said. “Brexit is operating as a spur to encourage all involved in the provision of legal services in London to strive to ensure that those services are even better than they already are.”

However, reacting to the speech, one City of London lawyer advised caution. David Allen, a partner at UK office of US law firm Mayer Brown, said: “Whilst Brexit does present new and exciting opportunities for the legal profession, there is a real need for a clear legal framework, particularly in relation to cross-border disputes. However, the future is bright for London's role on the global stage and we are still well-positioned to be at the forefront of future legal developments.”

Square Mile leader agrees capital will thrive outside EU

The Lord Mayor of the City of London is also expected to speak out to affirm London’s status, insisting Brexit “changed nothing”.

Andrew Parmley will tell the annual dinner for the judiciary at the Mansion House tonight: “We cannot deny that, for now, there is uncertainty. But of one thing we can be certain: the pre-eminent position of English law, UK courts and British legal services.”

The reasons, he will say at the dinner that will be attended by the lord chancellor and lord chief justice, include “the independent, intellectual, incorruptible reputation of our judiciary”. Parmley added that there was “the outstanding quality, certainty and flexibility of English law”, which he described as the “bedrock for all good business”. A third reason was “the leadership of London in international dispute resolution – reinforced by the imminent launch of the biggest bespoke business court in the world – some four times bigger than its nearest competitor”.

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