The Bar Council’s Brussels office, run by member of the Bar Evanna Fruithof, has been the Bar Council's eyes, ears and mouthpiece in our relations with the EU institutions since 1999. The office’s primary role is to track and seek to influence EU law and policy developments that may have an impact on law and legal practice in England & Wales. Over the past 20 years, as the EU itself has grown in size and competence, so the focus of the Brussels Office’s activities has extended. Thus apart from traditional EU law fields such as competition, employment law and professional regulation, we also cover key EU developments in areas as diverse as consumer law, criminal, family, company, fundamental rights, rule of law, data protection, environment, intellectual property, and more recently, future-focused challenges like those posed by robotics and artificial intelligence, to name but a few.
The Brussels office works closely with Bar Council Committees and relevant Specialist Bar Associations, most notably the EU Law Committee (EULC), which draws its membership from a broad range of practice areas. We provide input to the EU legislators and others, both written and oral, on EU policy and legislative developments, in the Bar’s name and, as appropriate, in tandem with other members of the legal or regulated professions. Such liaison is often on a Europe-wide basis, through e.g. our membership of the Council of the Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) and the European Law Institute (ELI).
In addition to the above, the Bar’s Brussels office has, since the build-up to the 2016 referendum, been at the forefront of the Bar’s Brexit-related work. This has included developing our strategy and policy objectives for the future EU-UK relationship, with the principal aim of preserving access to justice through future judicial cooperation and continuing mutual market access for legal services in support of same. The office plays an active role in pursuing and promoting these objectives, in particular with the EU institutions and with other Brussels-based bodies. Evanna is a member of the Bar’s Future Relationship Group (BFRG) (formerly the Bar Brexit Working Group) with which our EU Law Committee enjoys considerable cross-over membership.
Visit our Brexit and the UK’s relationship with the EU page for more details.
Following the UK’s formal departure from the bloc on 31 January 2020, we are in a period of transition, during which EU law continues to apply to the UK, with almost all of the rights and obligations that follow. We are thus bound, not only by EU law as it stood at midnight (CET) on 31 January, but also by new EU legislation that becomes applicable during transition, be that to the end of this year or beyond (Please refer to our Brexit page, link above) for more discussion on this. Moreover, the EULC is also tracking the onshoring of EU law into domestic law in anticipation of the end of the transition period.
It is too early to say with any certainty what the final EU-UK agreement will look like, but we anticipate that UK law will continue to track or mirror EU law in several fields, particularly those, such as data flow, judicial and security cooperation, where doing so would clearly be of mutual interest.
Accordingly, the Bar takes the view that its interests are best served by remaining positively engaged on “EU business as usual” files, whether through anticipating future developments or tracking and trying to influence current ones. The European Commission is developing policy in areas of importance to the Bar and our clients, including in the field of Artificial Intelligence and facilitating and managing its use in e.g. the administration of justice. Defending the Rule of Law, continuing the fight against terrorism; managing climate change – these are all areas where future EU policy will be of great importance to the UK and on which the Bar’s independent expertise continues to be of value.
A key part of the work of the Brussels office is keeping the wider Bar informed of EU developments and the work that we are doing on its behalf. Evanna is a regular speaker at SBA and other Bar events and contributes to Bar publications. She also develops a newsletter, Brussels News, detailing much of the above, which comes out several times per year.