UK could retain single market access without accepting jurisdiction of ECJ, says European judge

Written by John Ashmore on 21 August 2017 in News

Theresa May has repeatedly stated that ongoing ECJ oversight is a "red line" in negotiations, though the stance has been rejected by Brussels

ECJ - credit: PA

A top European judge has suggested the UK could retain full access to the single market without accepting the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice after Brexit.

Theresa May has repeatedly stated that ongoing ECJ oversight is a "red line" in negotiations, though the stance has been rejected by Brussels.

But Carl Baudenbacher, the president of the court of the European Free Trade Association, said his court could oversee a future partnership between the UK and the EU.


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The EFTA court currently oversees the relationship between Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein and the 27 EU member states.

The Swiss judge said the UK could even sign sector-specific agreements that would be overseen by the EFTA court, rather than the 'Norway option' of joining the European Economic Area (EEA).

“If the UK did not wish to remain part of the EEA, but rather sought to be connected with the EU only in certain sectors such as through what Theresa May has called a ‘deep and special partnership’, that agreement could possibly be ‘docked’ to the Efta court,” he said.

The Times reports that Baudenbacher's proposal will form part of a position paper on judicial oversight due to be released this week.

It is one of five policy areas where the Government is setting out detailed plans as it tries to speed up negotiations with Brussels.

Brexit Secretary David Davis wants to begin discussions on a future trade deal with the EU by this autumn, although reports suggest the next phase may not start until as late as December.

The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier is said to have told colleagues it is "highly unlikely" enough progress will have been made on the key withdrawal issues of citizens' rights, the Irish border and the so-called 'divorce bill' the UK will have to pay the EU.

That fear was echoed by Slovenian prime minister Miro Cerar, who told the Guardian: “I think that the process will definitely take more time than we expected at the start of the negotiations. There are so many difficult topics on the table, difficult issues there, that one cannot expect all those issues will be solved according to the schedule made in the first place.

“What is important now is that the three basic issues are solved in reasonable time. Then there will optimism on realistic grounds. I know this issue of finance is a tricky one. But it must also be solved, along with the rights of people.”

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