Why the UK should weaponise the English rule of law

A question posed at CMS’s excellent Paris Arbitration Week event Riding the Wave of Nationalism: Risks and Opportunities in a World Turned Insular was: if the rest of the world are weaponising their economic resources, can the UK weaponise English law?

In the new world order, supply chains have become battlegrounds. Russia has weaponised its energy supply; China its microchip and the US the dollar. The UK, on the other hand, makes nothing the rest of the world desperately needs. We have shut down our mines and shrunk our manufacturing base. We do have world-class companies, for example Rolls-Royce engines power a fifth of the world’s jets.  However, our largest export in 2022 at £23bn was ‘refined precious metals’ – a sector scarcely registering on the national radar.

One of the undisputed jewels in the UK’s economic crown is our legal sector.  It is Europe’s largest legal sector and the world’s second largest – a fact also scarcely registering on the national radar.  Our 1,000 year old common law is the basis of almost a third of the world’s legal systems.  English law is the default choice for many global industries. While many UK sectors have trade deficits, in 2021 the UK legal sector showed a £5.4bn trade surplus and 12.5 per cent year on year growth.  Of course, nothing makes a lawyer useful like uneconomic instability and supply chain disruption.

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The article was first published by The Lawyer on 26th April 2023.

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