Arguments put forward by the European Commission to block the UK from joining a key international agreement have “no legal basis”, the UK’s lord chancellor has said.
According to the Law Society Gazette of England and Wales, Robert Buckland (pictured) told a London International Disputes Week event that blocking the UK’s accession to the 2007 Lugano Convention would “harm our joint communities, particularly consumers, SMEs and financially vulnerable families”.
Last week, the European Commission issued a communication to the European Parliament and the European Council recommending that the UK be denied entry to the convention, which determines which countries’ courts may hear cross-border disputes, and which decisions can be enforced.
In its recommendation, the commission cited the UK's decision to leave the EU, its single market and customs union, as well as its decision to have “a more distant relationship” with the EU than European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries.
“This assessment is in line with the commission’s long-stated view that participation is linked to the internal market, and that the UK as a third party should have a different arrangement to that of the EU and EFTA,” Buckland said.
“Frankly that position has no legal basis,” he added, describing the convention as an international agreement specifically open to third parties, with no requirement for single-market membership. Buckland said the UK met all the criteria for accession.
Buckland added: “We shouldn’t let ideology get in the way of sensible, pragmatic co-operation on issues of mutual interest which are of genuine benefit, not just to us, but to the EU and to their citizens and businesses.”
The Gazette says that, while the final decision on Lugano rests with the European Council, the backing of the commission would have been significant.
European Free Trade Association states have already said they are willing to support the UK’s application.