Judges ramp up diplomatic efforts ahead of Brexit

UK exit from EU leaves Ireland as only pure common law system remaining within bloc

The judiciary are increasingly engaging in international diplomacy ahead of the departure of the UK from the European Union in 2019.

There have been 78 foreign trips by Irish judges between June 2016, when Britain voted to leave the EU, and July 2017. The vast majority of the trips have been to judicial or legal conferences in Europe and the UK, according to records obtained by The Irish Times.

While many trips are for training purposes – Ireland does not have its own judicial training body – legal sources say they are increasingly important as a form of soft diplomacy ahead of Brexit.

The judiciary believe such trips are vital as a means of networking with other legal systems on areas such as extradition and asylum law, given that after Brexit Ireland will be the only remaining pure common law system left within the EU.


“As a result of the impending Brexit it is essential that there be a common law voice in Europe,” said the Courts Service in a statement accompanying the records. Therefore attendance at European-level judicial events is of increasing importance, it added.

Meanwhile, Scottish Brexit minister Mike Russell has said Northern Ireland effectively remaining in the EU single market and customs union post-Brexit in an effort to avoid a hard Border – the Irish Government's preferred option – would "create difficulties" for Scotland.

Mr Russell said Scotland wanted to be in the single market and customs union but if this was not possible and Northern Ireland remained in both, Scotland would want to stay in too.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent