Brexit fall ()
Continental Breakfast: your daily update on what’s happening in Europe.
The U.K.’s Brexit future has become even less clear after the Supreme Court ruled that the Scottish and Welsh governments can join a historic legal battle over the country’s withdrawal from the European Union.
The U.K. government is appealing a landmark High Court ruling that prime minister Theresa May does not have the power to start the Brexit process.
A group of claimants successfully argued that parliament should be allowed to vote on the triggering of Article 50, which starts a two-year deadline for an EU member to complete its exit from the political bloc.
The Scottish and Welsh governments will now take part in the appeal, which is set to be heard over four days from December 8. The decision is expected in early January.
May has repeatedly reiterated her intention to trigger Article 50 by the end of March, meaning the U.K. would have to leave the EU by early 2019.
But if the government’s appeal fails, U.K. politicians, the majority of which wanted the country to remain within the EU, could delay or even block the process.
Facebook Follows Google In Announcing U.K. Growth Plans
Last week, I detailed Google’s plans to invest an estimated 1 billion pounds ($1.25 billion) in London and almost double its headcount in the city over the next three years, creating 3,000 new jobs in the process.
In another major boost for the U.K. tech sector, Facebook has announced that it will expand its presence in the country by 50 percent when it opens its new London offices next year.
The California-based social media giant will employ 500 additional staff at the site, with regional vice president Nicola Mendelsohn saying that the U.K. “remains one of the best places to be a tech company.”
Amazon and Apple are also set to move into larger premises in London over the next few years, further allaying fears that Brexit could damage the U.K.’s continued emergence as a global tech hub.
Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said that open borders and free movement for skilled migrants were crucial for the continued success of the U.K. tech industry. “We do value how open and connected [the U.K.] is and [that] we can bring in talent from anywhere in the world,” he said. “We are optimistic that will stay true over time.”
The U.K. government has made controlling immigration a key priority post-Brexit.
U.K. Court Ruling Increases Risk For Litigation Finance
An English court has delivered a major blow for litigation finance in the U.K. after upholding a ruling that funders of unsuccessful cases are liable for the opposing side’s legal costs.
The English Court of Appeal ruled on Friday that funders are liable for full “indemnity” costs under the U.K.’s “loser pays” rule, putting them on the hook for 85 percent of the other side’s legal tab. The ruling also raises the cap that can apply to these indemnity costs.
The case involved a group of litigation funders—including two from the U.S.—who financed a disastrous $1.6 billion case brought by a small energy venture against two U.S. oil companies. The funders will now be forced to pay the defendants’ legal costs of more than 20 million pounds ($24.7 million).
The judgment stated that Clifford Chance, which acted for the plaintiff on a partial contingency fee, had an “astute conflict of interest” that “worsened as their own investment in the case increased over time.” The arrangement could have seen Clifford Chance recover 140 percent of its usual fees, plus a discretionary success fee. The court said it was the first time the magic circle firm had entered into a contingency arrangement with a client.
A judge in the original High Court trial in 2013 criticized the litigation as meritless and said that Clifford Chance’s international arbitration partner Alex Panayides had pursued the case with “misplaced zeal.” Litigation funder Psari then threatened the firm with a malpractice suit, which was settled in December 2015 for an undisclosed sum.
Another Pre-Merger Exit At Olswang
Another day, another partner exit at Olswang.
The London-based media and technology specialist has seen a number of partners leave following its decision to merge with U.K. law firms CMS Cameron McKenna and Nabarro. It has now suffered three senior exits in as many days, after corporate finance partner Azlinda Ariffin-Boromand agreed to join private client firm Withers.
Ariffin-Boromand’s departure follows those of patent prosecution co-chair Justin Hill, who is set to join Dentons’ London office as head of its European patent prosecution and opposition practices, and corporate technology partner Rob Bratby, who is leaving for Arnold & Porter.
Restructuring chief Alicia Videon previously left the firm for McDermott Will & Emery, while life sciences co-head Stephen Reese has moved to Clifford Chance.
Olswang partners were forced in early October to sign a lock-in that commits them to staying at the firm for 12 months after the three-way merger goes live in May 2017. Those that refused will have to leave the firm before the combination, which could ultimately be joined by a U.S. firm, takes effect.