No Deal Brexit – the impact upon family law

Dealing with international clients in the midst of family issues can bring with it various complexities and legal considerations, not to mention heightened emotions.

Throw the current political challenges into the mix and families could be faced with even more uncertainty.

As things stand there is no agreement for the UK to leave the EU and no deal pertaining to future relations with all other Countries.  Whilst the Government is committed to avoiding this situation the recent discussions between the main negotiators would suggest that this no deal scenario is becoming more and more likely with only 38 days to go.

What therefore could be the impact upon families and family law in the event of a no deal Brexit?

Overnight, UK citizens would no longer benefit from EU rules.  It is anticipated that all EU Law in the UK will be repealed.  Do not be too worried about this – the UK has been making law to protect people since the Magna Carta some 800 years ago and are therefore quite good at it.

In the event of a no deal Brexit, a mish mash of things will happen.  National laws will re-apply together with the reliance on the Hague Convention (of which the UK is a signatory to various elements) and new legislation will be forged (most likely based on the previous EU law).  In addition, Andrea Leadsome has confirmed on the Radio 4 Today programme that there are around 600 pieces of secondary legislation which have been prepared behind the scenes over the last couple of years to ensure a smooth transition.  400 of these have already been passed and the remaining ones will be passed by the end of March if they need to be.

Inevitably there will be a period of confusion and there will also be situations in which an ‘old’ law cannot simply replace the repealed EU law and the secondary legislation does not fill the void.

Unfortunately in those circumstances the client may have to apply to the court to seek clarification.  In a time in which courts are already struggling to deal with the caseload and pressure, it goes without saying that this additional upheaval could have disastrous consequences.

In practical terms however, families will sadly continue to have international disputes and there will still be laws to protect them, one way or another.  It is the role of a good lawyer to ensure that any chaos caused by a no deal, takes place behind the scenes so the client is none the wiser and is fully supported and protected as they would have been if we were still part of the EU.

Louise Masters is a specialist family lawyer in our Personal and Family department. To speak to her, contact Louise on 0191 226 3641 or

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