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UK barristers have long been used to dealing with matters beyond their shores. Some are experts in esoteric areas of international law. Others sit on international tribunals, be they private or public. Still more plead before such tribunals. In the past 25 years, one particular area of non-domestic work has come to the forefront of many barristers’ practices – that of European Union (EU) law both within and beyond England and Wales. It was this fact that led to the creation of the European Circuit in March 2001, the first such circuit to be created in over 100 years. The Circuit now has some 225 members from almost every country in the EU and many from countries which will accede in May 2004.

It is well-known that many cases either decided by the English courts, or by the European Court of Justice on references from English courts, have acted as trail-blazers of EC law – Factortame, Van Duyn and Courage v Creehan, to name but a few. In all those cases, barristers led the litigation process. It is slightly less well-known that many of the leading lights in the European Commission’s (EC’s) legal service, which intervenes in each case brought before the European Court, are UK barristers. Such activity is to be expected, as the Bar has never shied away from new areas of work.

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