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Monday, 3 April 2017

On 28 February 2017 Mr Anthony Parry, a Cambridge graduate, former Treasury Legal Adviser and now a consultant at Freshfields, delivered the 2017 Cambridge Freshfields Lecture entitled "Under threat? Safeguarding the future of English law and the English Courts after Brexit" at the Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge.

Mr Parry addressed the potential challenges, pitfalls, and opportunities which might materialise as the United Kingdom navigates its way towards an exit from the European Union following the referendum on membership in June 2016. He began by describing how the UK’s recent efforts to reclaim "sovereignty" from Brussels reflect a broader political trend towards "deglobalization" in international relations. He suggested that we are currently witnessing a shift away from the prevailing post-Second World War compact, based on principles of fairness and justice, towards a more “transactional” approach to inter-state relationships.

Turning to the main theme of his lecture, the future of the English law and courts after Brexit, Mr Parry highlighted the significant expansion of the UK legal services sector since the “big bang” of the 1980s and the attractiveness of the English law and the UK courts to international commercial parties. The key reasons why foreign parties chose English law to govern transactions and the UK courts to resolve their disputes include the certainty, clarity and predictability of English law, as well as the reputation of the English courts and judiciary. These factors, he suggested, should not be impacted by Brexit.

Nonetheless, there has been a suggestion in some quarters that Brexit may result in the UK becoming less attractive as a venue for resolving international disputes, or that the competiveness of the UK legal services industry more generally may be undermined. In particular, Mr Parry pointed to concerns that UK lawyers may lose access rights to the legal services market in the EU and that UK court judgements will cease to become capable of automatic recognition and enforcement within EU member states if the Brussels Recast regime ceases to apply on Brexit.

His lecture discussed some of the legal and practical solutions that the UK Government and international parties can adopt to mitigate these uncertainties. For instance, in relation to the future enforceability of UK court judgments, he noted the desirability of the UK Government ratifying the 2005 Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements in addition to seeking a longer-term agreement with the EU to continue to apply the Brussels Recast regulation (possibly along the lines of the EU’s existing arrangements with Denmark). The option of choosing London-seat international arbitration, in respect of which the enforceability of arbitration awards will be unaffected by Brexit, was also highlighted.

The Cambridge Freshfields Lecture is an annual address delivered by a guest of the Cambridge Private Law Centre, and the event is sponsored by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

More information about this lecture, including other recorded formats, a transcript, and photographs from the event, is available from the Private Law Centre website.