Senior representatives from major law firms and key City of London stakeholders have expressed “considerable concern” about the unintended consequences of the Bill of Rights on business.
Stephen Denyer, the Law Society’s director of strategic relations, told the PA news agency that there is “a widespread feeling among businesses that the bill presents an unnecessary risk and problem”.
The Bill of Rights will return to Parliament “as soon as possible”, according to the PA news agency, with a date yet to be officially confirmed.
Dominic Raab introduced the bill in his first term as justice secretary, but was later sidelined by the short-lived government of Liz Truss.
Back in Cabinet, Mr Raab is set to relaunch it as part of the government’s strategy to deal with the crisis of small migrant boats crossing the Channel.
Mr. Denyer, who is responsible for the Law Society’s strategic relationship with key private practice stakeholders, said, “I have discussed the Bill of Rights with senior representatives from more than 30 major law firms in the city and representatives of the main stakeholders of the city.
“Overall, those I have spoken to have expressed considerable concern about the unintended consequences of some of the Bill’s provisions, in particular regarding the impact on the UK’s economic competitiveness and the position of the international law and jurisdiction of England.”
City lawyers who deal extensively with foreign clients, regulators, representative bodies and governments tell me that all of these counterparties greet some of the bill’s provisions with a mixture of surprise and horror.
The proposed legislation, which was in the Conservative Party manifesto, would give legal supremacy to the UK Supreme Court and explicitly state that UK courts can override decisions of the European Court of Human Rights.
Mr Denyer claimed that “everyone fears” that the provisions of the bill “will alter the relationship between the courts and Parliament in a way that would be perceived by companies as removing the legal protections they use to protect their rights when dealing with the state.
Given the extent of commercial relationships involving the state in one capacity or another, he said anything that reduces state liability for rights violations also has “a commercial impact.”
“A similar concern also arises in relation to the possibility of further divergence from the European Court of Human Rights and our international obligations to protect rights.
“These things could have a negative impact on the UK’s economic competitiveness as global companies view the UK as a riskier place to invest and do business,” he added.
Mr Denyer also insisted the City feared that any perceived weakening of human rights standards in the UK “would be used by our competing international jurisdictions as an opportunity to persuade foreign entities not to choose English law and jurisdiction in relation to cross-border transactions and disputes”.
He explained: “City lawyers who deal extensively with foreign clients, regulators, representative bodies and governments tell me that all of these counterparties greet some of the bill’s provisions with a mixture of surprise and horror. .
“Combined with other measures inconsistent with the UK’s established approach to its international obligations, this would have long-term negative consequences.”
Asked if there was anything the government could do to address the issues raised by city stakeholders, Mr Denyer said: ‘It comes from a lot of different provisions in the bill, so it would require quite a bit of rewriting. comprehensive to allay these concerns. “
Commenting on the Director of Strategic Relations’ findings, Shadow Justice Secretary Steve Reed told the Palestinian Authority that “conservatives cannot be trusted on the economy” and that “corporations know that the declaration of the rights of conservatives is, in effect, a charter of reduction of rights”. .
Mr Reed added: ‘Its effect would be disastrous and chilling, depriving UK citizens and businesses of the right to challenge the government’s failure in UK courts and putting the UK on a collision course with the US undermining the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace. to Northern Ireland.
“The Conservatives’ bill is bad for business and bad for Britain.”
A Department of Justice spokesperson said: “The government is strongly committed to protecting human rights at home and abroad, and nothing in the Bill of Rights detracts from the existing rights of businesses. .
“The Bill will strengthen human rights, such as freedom of speech, and confirm Parliament’s legitimate role as the ultimate lawmaker in the UK.”