Ms Justice Mary Laffoy: ‘Gravitational pull’ towards UK law will persist after Brexit

Ms Justice Mary Laffoy: 'Gravitational pull' towards UK law will persist after Brexit

Ms Justice Mary Laffoy

Irish law will continue to feel the “gravitational pull” of British jurisprudence after Brexit, Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, president of the Law Reform Commission, has said.

In a speech to the Law Reform Commission’s annual conference yesterday, the retired Supreme Court judge said there were areas of law where Brexit “may make the need for close alignment with UK law even more important”.

In a departure from usual practice, the conference chose to focus on the broad issue of Brexit’s impact on law reform in Ireland, rather than a specific project or consultation.

Opening the conference, Ms Justice Laffoy said: “It is important to note that regardless of the United Kingdom’s relationship with the EU, much of our law reform work takes place outside of any EU context.

“Yes, it may be worth remembering that quite a lot of our law, including in the commercial area, in criminal law, family law, land law, succession and trusts and tort law, remains a matter for each state to determine.

“In that respect, where the Commission’s work involves those areas, as it often does, there is an inevitable magnetic pull of history - roughly 800 years worth - towards examining what the position in the UK might be. For perfectly valid, albeit pragmatic, reasons, it will often make sense to conclude that, all other things being equal, an English solution to a legal problem could also be a suitable solution to an Irish legal problem.”

She pointed to the Commission’s Report on Consumer Insurance Contracts in 2015 as an example of both UK and EU law’s influence on Ireland.

Ms Justice Laffoy said the desire to avoid “unnecessary cross-border costs” led the Commission to “[gravitate] towards the UK model of reform enacted in the wake of the recommendations of the Law Commission of England and Wales”.

She said: “The rationale for this is clear: many insurance undertakings are multi-national and often operate out of the UK, so our laws should remain closely aligned for good commercial reasons.

“Looking back from 2018, therefore, and now in the context of Brexit, the need to avoid unnecessary cross-border costs to business and consumers seems even more important.

“It may be that, even after March 2019, a project on the reform of insurance contract law would probably lead to the same conclusions that the Commission made in the 2015 Report; but the Brexit context may make the need for close alignment with UK law even more important.”

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