LONDON — The European Union’s highest court could still carry weight in Britain after Brexit even though the country will leave its “direct jurisdiction,” the U.K. government said Wednesday.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s government has repeatedly said Britain will no longer be bound by rulings of the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice once it quits the bloc in 2019. May said Wednesday that Britain’s Supreme Court “will be the arbiter” of British laws.
The reality is more complex, and illustrates some of the challenges involved in disentangling the country from the EU.
The 27 other EU states want the European court to retain authority over the interpretation and implementation of the Brexit agreement, and have oversight over the treatment of their citizens in the Britain.
Alexander Winterstein, a spokesman at the EU’s executive Commission, said Wednesday that the bloc’s position was “transparent and unchanged.”
The British government, however, says the EU’s proposal would not be “fair and neutral.”
In a paper released Wednesday, the Department for Exiting the European Union said a new committee or arbitration panel would have to be created to deal with disagreements over the interpretation and application of the Brexit deal.
Outlining a series of precedents without recommending one in particular, it said one possible model was the one used by non-EU countries such as Iceland and Norway, which requires that “due account” be taken of EU court rulings.
Opponents of Brexit said the paper showed the government was softening its stance. Labour peer Andrew Adonis, a supporter of the pro-EU Open Britain campaign, said the paper made it clear that “European judges will still have considerable power over decisions made in the U.K.”
Britain is releasing a series of position papers on aspects of Brexit ahead of a new round of negotiations in Brussels at the end of August.
Britain triggered the two-year countdown to leaving the EU in March, and the country’s negotiators are eager to move the divorce talks on to details of a future trade relationship with the bloc.
EU officials say that can only happen once there has been “sufficient progress” on key issues including how much Britain must pay to settle its accounts with the bloc, and the status of 3 million EU citizens living in Britain.