A no-deal Brexit on Halloween will create a legal nightmare for Britons living or running a business in the European Union, Simon Bruce, one of the UK’s most respected lawyers, told the Bulletin this week.
Bruce was in Majorca to attend an international forum of lawyers hosted by the international legal practice Monereo Meyer Abogados, which has offices in Madrid, Barcelona and here in Palma, and he could not stress enough the need for Britons living in Spain or elsewhere in the European Union to seek sound expert legal advice ahead of what he fears will be a no-deal Brexit.
Bruce is the Senior Counsel with Farrer & Co, who are synonymous with the highest quality legal advice and service.
They advise individuals, families, businesses, financial services, educational and not-for-profit organisations on every aspect of the law, wherever the need arises. From their offices in London they work with trusted professionals around the world to deliver a seamless international service, and it is that expertise which Bruce brought to Palma.
Bruce’s track record for obtaining the best possible outcome for his clients has seen him involved in the past three family law cases that have reached the Supreme Court.
This includes the seminal children and abduction case Re: A (Children) (AP) and Radmacher, where he represented Mrs. Radmacher at the judgement. Both cases were complex and groundbreaking.
Katrin Radmacher’s case was particularly significant in establishing the importance of pre-marital and post-marital contracts in family cases.
It changed the landscape of family law - in short Bruce ensured that prenuptial agreements were finally enforced in the United Kingdom in 2010.
Bruce admits that he loves pre-marital law "because we are dealing with people who love each other and want to be together". "I look at prenups as a sensible way of security for the future. Prenups are not all about ‘who can get the most money out of a divorce’ as the tabloids would have people believe. As far as I am concerned, it is the complete opposite. What they do, in the event of a marriage coming to an end for whatever reason, is lay the grounds for sensible and transparent discussion, they reduce the emotional stress, especially if there are children involved, and pave the way for a fair outcome. Yes, I’ve had wealthy and influential clients, but prenups apply to everyone. More often than not, couples living on limited resources or struggling with a business take out a prenup to protect each other in the event of a separation. A prenup protects them from having to spend all of what little money they may have on legal fees, lawyers and court battles. It makes simple sense," Bruce said.
"It also provides security for a couple who are about to get married while giving them more autonomy as opposed to the courts and the nanny state deciding about their future, which is how it was in the UK prior to 2010.
"And in the case of London, we are seeing more and more because of the increase in foreign residents, mixed marriages and greater mobility; perfect example being Britons marrying Spaniards here in Majorca."
This is where a no-deal Brexit could have negative implications.
"The outlook right now points to a no-deal Brexit and that will cause chaos to international family law - especially for split families, mixed marriages. For example, taking out a prenup now, the couple can decide in which country a divorce and financial settlement will be carried out; you will not be able to do that post no-deal Brexit. So that throws uncertainty into prenups, But looking at the bigger picture, a British citizen living in a European Union state post a no-deal Brexit is going to lose substantial legal rights, married or not," Bruce explained. This will not only affect marriages but also business practices, especially those involved in import-export, for example, or which belong to holding companies. Bruce also highlighted the confusion a no-deal Brexit will cause for Britons living in the EU with trust funds. He said that there will be implications for capital gains and inheritance tax. "It will become the law of the jungle and plenty of sharks and pirates will suddenly appear, so my advice for anyone with any doubts or concerns is to seek expert legal advice as soon as possible. Don’t leave it until October.
"We don’t have all the answers, no one does, not even the politicians, but what we can do is help people develop contingency plans and provide them with as much information as possible with regard to what the potential legal fallout from a no-deal Brexit is going to be," Bruce said.
"There will be grey areas, for example in the event of violence in a mixed marriage. Any court order issued in the United Kingdom would not be valid here in Spain.
"Britons will continue to be protected by the Hague Convention, but all of the extra legal coverage which has been provided by the EU and Brussels will go.
"So custody matters and parental responsibility will become far more uncertain.
"Quite simply, under EU laws, we Britons have a great deal of legal certainty and security across the board. Post a no-deal Brexit, we will go to uncertainty and that will lead to greater bitterness and wrangling in the courts which benefits no one. It will also have an impact on commercial contracts for the business sector. For me, the big thing is that while the courts in the UK have been hellbent on bringing in security and stability, the irony is that, through Brexit, the politicians and government have just brought in instability, insecurity and huge doubts about the future both legally and socially. Brexit is proving to be extremely damaging."