William Cash

How Britain’s legal system went global

It was Henry Fairlie in his famous article in The Spectator in 1955 that made the critical point about the way ‘Establishment’ power (political, legal, media, foreign office, civil service and so on) is exercised in Britain: namely such a ‘matrix’ of influence was exercised ‘socially’, behind closed doors; or maybe ‘closed chambers’ would be more apt as the Supreme Court faces the biggest legal showdown in its short history on Monday 5 December.

Charles Moore has come close to saying something similar to Fairlie, while reflecting in the Telegraph on the liberal credentials of certain members of the eleven Supreme Court judges who will be deciding whether to overturn the High Court ruling (brought by Gina Miller) that an Act of Parliament – as opposed to use of the ‘Royal Prerogative’ – is required to trigger Article 50. He worried whether senior members of the judiciary were part of a cosy club who shared seemingly progressive views (especially in human rights law) as opposed to having ‘independence from one another’. Moore concluded that such a stance is hardly unexpected, as the UK’s high judicial world ‘suffer more from group-think than of old’.

But it is not just the senior members of the judiciary who are broadly supportive of the European legislature status quo. Most of the top tier ranks of the UK legal profession now suffer from ‘group-think’, because London has witnessed the emergence of a new global club of ‘international and integrated’ super law firms. Such firms often have a matrix of vested global corporate interests that are often ‘aligned’ with the pro-immigration, free-market interests of their corporate clients.

An example is Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, formed in 2000 by a ‘three-way merger’ between Freshfields in the UK – dating back to 1743 – and one German and another German-Austrian firm. When the Lawyer published its first ever financial survey of top European law firms – the Euro100 – Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer came top (‘Kings of Europe’) with global turnover of £800m.

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