Game of Thrones

It is at times like this, I would cheerfully vote for Tyrion Lannister to become the next Prime Minister. Possibly even Ramsay Bolton: at least there’s a politician who knows how to get things done.

Like most of you I went to bed on Thursday (actually the early hours of Friday morning) reasonably confident that this country would vote narrowly to remain in the European Union, and learnt shortly after breakfast, that it, had, in fact voted to leave. Or rather, just over half of it had. The other half are now hopping mad, in the belief that they have, in one way or another been had.

I then watched the Prime Minister impale himself on the sword of his own political imprudence, and leave the political mess for someone else to clean up. In a few short hours, the political landscape and comforting familiarity of the pan political consensus on Europe, had shattered forever. Even Donald Trump bobbed up later on, telling some bemused Scots, how he admired them for taking back their country.

The consequences of this vote remain to be seen: will there be a renegotiation and a hurried second referendum? Will the government fall with the Prime Minister, and there be a general election, with a major political party promising to remain in Europe? Will Scotland leave the Union with its MPs, with England and Wales then facing semi-permanent Tory government?

Who knows? I don’t. What I have found interesting, is the reams of print legal commentators have pushed out in the last few days, about how this, that or the other area of law will be adversely affected by Brexit.

After a while, one’s eyes glaze over: because no one of course, can predict at this early stage precisely what is going to happen. In particular, although one might think that whilst eg: European Union procurement lawyers may yet become an endangered species, it is salutary to note that many other jurisdictions have procurement laws, derived from common law principles, which have nothing to do with the EU. So procurement lawyers are likely to evolve rather than die.

Similarly in town and country planning and environmental law, although one fears the demise of the Blue Flag scheme, with the banners being lowered over Britain’s beaches, or the EU protected bird species such as woodlarks and nightjars, ending up in a pie on Boris Johnson’s table, many of those laws are now so established and so beneficial to the public good, that they may well be kept, subject to some subtle relabeling.

So what does this mean for costs which after all is the focus of this blog? I think I can venture two predictions, with a degree of safety. The first is that the current plans for fixed costs in NIHL, clinical negligence or more generally, across civil litigation, or the agenda to raise the small claims track limit or abolish whiplash, are unlikely to proceed. I just think that costs reform has, in Mr Obama’s memorable phrase “gone to the back of the queue”.

The second is that without a functioning Legal Aid system, and without widespread ATE, with astronomical court fees and a failing tribunal system, now, just when the citizens of this country are likely to need access to justice acutely as their rights and laws are refashioned in the biggest legal shake up for a generation, the legal armoury is bare.

Stripping away the European Court of Justice and the law making role of the EU which is heavily grounded in human rights concerns, must serve to weaken the rule of law.

What worries me, is that with a divided and incoherent domestic legislature the prospect of domestic strengthening of the rule of law, to replace that which will be lost, seems very remote indeed.

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Mr Cameron: he was no Nick Fury.

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