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Justin Urquhart Stewart and Peter Duff

the UK200Group asked its members and their clients to contribute their most important business questions

As part of its commitment to the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) business community, the UK200Group has launched its Campaign for Clarity ahead of the EU Referendum on June 23.

With this in mind, the UK200Group asked its members and their clients to contribute their most important business questions to a document that was then submitted to Britain Stronger in Europe and Vote Leave. The answers were received between May 12 and 24 2016 and are documented in the report.

The UK200Group, established in 1986, represents a significant group of trusted, quality-assured business advisers – chartered accountants and lawyers – who have over 150,000 SME clients in total. As such, the UK200Group acts as the voice for 1,500 charities, over 10% of all registered academies, more than 3,700 farms, 800 healthcare businesses and over 500 property and construction professionals.

Below are the answers to the key legal questions. The Remain camp, as the nearest to status quo, has had its answers listed first, followed by those of the Leave camp.

The UK200Group is impartial in the EU referendum debate and seeks only to provide clarity to its members on issues that will affect them. As such, the following answers are provided verbatim from Britain Stronger in Europe and Vote Leave and are combined for the first time in this document.

1. As we have had a history of input regarding European legislation, is it expected that the UK legal profession, if we exit the EU, continue to bear strong influence from Europe, particularly in the area of Human Rights and cross border matters?

Remain:
If we leave the EU, we would still be part of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which is not a part of the EU. This is a binding convention tied to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg which the UK is signed up to, so this would remain, and would be a lasting European legal influence in the UK.

Leave:
While we remain in an unreformed EU, the UK lacks the power to ‘break the formal link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights’, as was promised before the last election (Conservative Party Manifesto, 2015). Allowing the European Court to stay in charge of these matters will cause great uncertainty for business as it uses the Charter of Fundamental Rights to take more powers from the member states. After we Vote Leave, it would be for the UK Parliament and UK Supreme Court to decide the appropriate means and levels of UK Human Rights protections.


2. Being so closely tied to Europe, in or out, will our legal profession still have any influence on European issues, or can we return to a legal system not hampered and / or handcuffed by EU legislation?

Remain:
It is abundantly clear that the UK will lose influence if we leave the EU. Britain is a champion in many fields and across professions, and our knowledge and expertise influences others. We benefit from EU funding and EU schemes, which help us project and influence others.

If we leave the EU, not only will we lose our vital influence and say over decisions in the EU institutions, we will also lose access to countless research and cooperation programmes through which our world-leading experts currently help shape global thinking.

Leave:
Inside the EU, the UK will remain constantly outvoted by the Eurozone, with the result that damaging EU legislation will continue to be imposed on us. The UK has been outvoted every time it has voted against an EU measure - 72 times in total. 40 of these defeats have taken place since David Cameron became Prime Minister (Vote Leave, October 2015). The UK has no influence at present.

After we Vote Leave, we will be able to influence global standard-setting bodies more effectively and regain an influential voice on the world stage. Many EU rules are actually set at an international level. EU members have little influence on this because the Commission speaks for them in key international bodies.

The Commission often adds unnecessary bureaucracy to global rules for EU-based producers, and these EU rules are then extremely hard to change. After we Vote Leave, we would take back control of our seats in these organisations, and be better able to influence global and European policy.

3. Is it possible that Legal Aid funding could increase without the need to fund our commitment to the EU?

Remain:
Leaving the single market would mean an annual £36 billion black hole in the public finances, which would mean less money for our public services like Legal Aid funding.

Leave:
We send more than £350 million to the EU every week, and after we Vote Leave, we would take back control of this money and could ensure that it is spent on our priorities. It would be for the UK Parliament and UK voters to decide whether they would wish to increase funding for Legal Aid, but there would be financial resources available for this, that we would no longer need to send to the EU, should they choose.

4. What impact would it have on the Supreme Court?

Remain:
If we leave the EU, we would still be part of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which is not a part of the EU. This is a binding convention tied to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg which the UK is signed up to, so UK courts would continue to be bound by this legal framework.

Leave:
The UK Supreme Court would become the UK’s court of last resort. It would no longer be subject to the primacy of EU law, and need to follow the direction of the European Court.


5. What would be the cut off for cases going to the European Court of Justice?

Remain:
This would depend on the kind of future relationship Britain would have with the EU.

Leave:
After we Vote Leave, it would be for the UK and the EU to determine the cut off. After we Vote Leave, we would expect Parliament to legislate to amend or repeal the 1972 Act which gives the European Court control over our law. However, the referendum will have no legal consequences save for the certification of the result by the Chief Counting Officer (Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, s. 128(6)). After the UK voted to leave, it would therefore initially continue to be a member of all the EU institutions under the EU treaties with the voting rights of a full member.

The full report can be found here: http://www.uk200group.co.uk/web/FILES/EU_Questions_answers_v... .

A video of the media briefing that launched the report can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-fHaWkALac .

Useful links:
The UK200Group: http://www.uk200group.co.uk/
Campaign for Clarity 30 Questions and Answers report: http://www.uk200group.co.uk/web/FILES/EU_Questions_answers_v...
Media briefing video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-fHaWkALac
Britain Stronger in Europe: http://www.strongerin.co.uk/
Vote Leave: http://www.voteleavetakecontrol.org/


ENDS

Media information provided by Famous Publicity. For further information, please contact George Murdoch on 0333 344 2341 or george@famouspublicity.com, Adam Betteridge on 0333 344 2341 or adam@famouspublicity.com or Tina Fotherby on 07703 409 622 or tina@famouspublicity.com.

On May 11, the UK200Group hosted a debate at which 30 questions from SME owners were given to leading politicians, who discussed the implications of a Remain or Leave vote. The questions were then given to the official Remain and Leave campaigns, and the report was put together between 12 and 24 May.

About the UK200Group:

The UK200Group was formed in 1986, and is the UK’s leading association of independent chartered accountants and law firms, with connections around the world.

The association brings together around 150 member offices in the UK with more than 500 partners who serve roughly 150,000 business clients. Its international links in nearly 70 countries give its members access to expertise across the globe.

This press release was distributed by ResponseSource Press Release Wire on behalf of The UK200Group in the following categories: Public Sector, Third Sector & Legal, for more information visit http://pressreleasewire.responsesource.com/about.