UK says its Supreme Court will be "ultimate arbiter" after Brexit

A new paper says the government would work with the EU in the interim period

UK says its Supreme Court will be "ultimate arbiter" after Brexit

Police officers outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London | Image: Anthony Devlin PA Archive/PA Images

The British Supreme Court will be the ultimate arbiter of law in the UK after Brexit, Prime Minister Theresa May has said.

A UK government paper has called for an end to the "direct jurisdiction" of EU courts in the country.

But the highly anticipated paper on dispute resolution suggests EU judges could continue to exercise jurisdiction in the transitional period after Britain's membership of the EU ends in March 2019.

It said the government would work with the EU in the interim period - "including the arrangements for judicial supervision".

The document says "withdrawal from the EU will mean a return to the situation where the UK and the EU have their own autonomous legal orders".

It says establishing a "deep and special relationship" with the EU will require a new dispute-resolution mechanism, citing several existing methods, such as joint committees and arbitration panels.

Some of these examples point to a possible role for the European Court of Justice, whether it is to pay "due account" to relevant ECJ decisions or to refer to its interpretation of the law.

The paper has raised fears among Brexit hardliners that the UK could be bound by decisions of European judges for years after it leaves the EU.

British Prime Minister Theresa May | File photo

Some have said Mrs May was effectively backtracking from her repeated promise that Brexit Britain would be in full control of its laws.

British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "The government is clearly backtracking on its earlier red lines and saying there has to be some form of dispute resolution through some form of judicial process and that's obviously the case and we've indeed said that all along."

Speaking shortly before the publication of the paper, she rejected the claim she was backtracking.

"When we leave the European Union we will be leaving the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice," Mrs May said.

"What we will be able to do is to make our own laws.

"Parliament will make our laws, it is British judges who will interpret those laws and it will be the British Supreme Court that will be the ultimate arbiter of those laws.

"We will take back control of our laws."

The European Court of Justice ensures member states abide by EU law, interprets EU law and settles disputes between countries and EU institutions. Its rulings are binding.

For the EU, the Luxembourg-based court is the guarantor of EU law and must protect its citizens, including those living in Britain.

The court has now emerged as a stumbling block in negotiations with Brussels.