PM accepts close ECJ relationship in Brexit U-turn

Britain can have a “close cooperative relationship” with the European Court of Justice (ECJ) the government has said, in a U-turn that could help smooth the Brexit negotiations.

The position, published in a policy paper today (August 23), is a climb-down from Theresa May’s hardline rhetoric about ending the court’s jurisdiction in the UK.

Although the government is still intent on leaving the court’s “direct jurisdiction”, the paper signalled that Britain could still abide by past ECJ rulings, take its future decisions into account and even refer decisions to it.

Such a move would increase the chances of successful trade deal with the EU and help maintain workers’ rights.

Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said: “The repeated reference to ending the “direct jurisdiction” of the ECJ is potentially significant.

“This appears to contradict the red line laid out in the Prime Minister’s Lancaster House speech and the government’s white paper, which stated there could be no future role of the ECJ and that all laws will be interpreted by judges in this country.”

The paper cited existing trade structures, such as the European Free Trade Area and Moldova Association Agreement, as examples of where dispute resolution takes place outside the “direct jurisdiction” of ECJ while still referring to it.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey called on the government to be more specific on how it will seek to continue maintaining ECJ employment rights rulings after Brexit.

He said: “Unless the government commits to ensuring UK workers continue to benefit from future improved rights secured in the ECJ, and sets out exactly how that will happen, there is a real danger that our members will only be protected at work by second-rate rights.”