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Family analysis: David Williams QC, barrister and mediator at 4 Paper Buildings, looks at the possible impact of the EU referendum on family lawyers and their clients.
What are your key concerns about a future EU referendum?
As Jacques Delors once said:
‘Europe is not just about material results, it is about spirit. Europe is a state of mind.’
Brexit would mean a withdrawal not just from the relevant EU instruments in the family law field, with adverse consequences for the handling of cross-border cases, but also (whether in whole or in part) from the impact on the spirit of comity and co-operation between judges, central authorities, welfare agencies and lawyers—which has led to such improvements in the ways in which we deal with cross-border cases. Undoubtedly, the diminution in that aspect would have a detrimental impact on the welfare of children and families. On a broader level, I am worried about the knock-on effect of Brexit. If one of the largest EU Member States were to leave, what message would it send to the other Member States and to candidate countries? That a country should always pursue what it perceives as its self-interest over the interests of the region? What knock-on effect would it have on our membership of the Council of Europe and our adoption of the European Convention on Human Rights? The EU grew out of the European Economic Community (EEC), the European Coal and Steel Community and European Atomic Energy Community, which were all formed in the aftermath of World War II and designed to aid integration and security in Europe. Any reversal brings with it unpredictable consequences which may have far wider ramifications somewhere down the line. The League of Nations failed in the 1930s because big players did not support it. I do not think we should be complacent about our European integration—history tells us that we have to work hard to maintain stability and Brexit wou
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