Law Society of Scotland Update

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Inquiry on Withdrawal Agreement Bill

Our Constitutional Law Sub-Committee responded to the House of Commons Procedure Committee inquiry on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

We welcome the UK Government’s commitment in the White Paper on Legislating for the Withdrawal Agreement to parliamentary scrutiny of the process of withdrawal from the EU but note that there is no reference to engagement with the devolved legislatures in paragraph 138. It is likely that the devolved legislatures and administrations will have a vested interest in all legislation which implements the Withdrawal Agreement and it is crucial that there is sufficient engagement to take into account the views of the devolved legislatures so that we have a workable, certain body of law following withdrawal.

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Future trade relationships post-Brexit

Our Trade Policy Working Group responded to four consultations from the Department for International Trade (DIT) on future trade relationships and negotiations. DIT was consulting on negotiations with New Zealand, Australia, and the United States and asking for views on the UK potentially seeking to accede to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Trade agreements can be used to effect a wide range of changes in the relationship between states and regions. In many such agreements provisions are a means to promote or reinforce the application of the rule of law. Trade negotiations should take into consideration the need to ensure minimum standards or norms and respect for the rule of law and the interests of justice and access to justice.

We emphasised the importance of recognising that Scotland is a distinct jurisdiction with its own law, court system and separately regulated legal profession. This should be considered in pursuing trade agreements including negotiations with the EU.

We believe that a whole of governance approach should be taken when considering trade negotiations. In the context of devolved competences this is particularly relevant where international agreements would bind domestic legislatures to effect changes to domestic law.

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About the Joint Brussels Office

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The Law Societies' Brussels Office monitors developments and represents the profession in negotiations with the European institutions.

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