Author:Richard Alexander
Position:School of Finance and Management, SOAS University of London, London, UK
In the chaos of Brexit, what about asset recovery?
At the time of writing of this editorial,the uncertainty surrounding Brexit is as great as ever.
It is always dangerous to look too closelyinto crystal balls it may be that by the time this
is published, the Withdrawal Agreementconcluded by Theresa Mays Government and the
European Union will have been approved by the House of Commons and that the UK will
leave the EU at midnight Brussels time on 22 May on the terms that it contains. Maybe.
However, at the time of writing, the only persons predicting that with any condence are
members of Mays Government itself. Elsewhere, the discussion is if (some prefer to say
when) the deal is rejected by the British Parliament,what happens then? Will the UK leave
on 22 May, as the Prime Minister insists it must, with no deal at all? This is the preferred
outcome for a number within theConservative Party, although not, it increasingly appears,
within Parliament as a whole. Will some alternative deal be negotiated? That has
consistently been ruled out by the European Union as a body (this deal is the only deal),
although it would seem likely that membership of the European Economic Area, the so-
called Norway option, would prove acceptable. The position of Labour leader Jeremy
Corbyn also in practice amountsto this, since he insists on a permanent customs union and
an effective single market and the EU has made it clear that free movement of persons is a
non-negotiable (if you will excuse the pun) condition for this. Or will there be a second
referendum, the so-called PeoplesVote, which as Prime Minister May has explicitly
warned, could quite possibly resultin no Brexit at all? The judgment of the European Court
of Justice that the United Kingdom has the legal power unilaterally to withdraw the Article
50 notice underlines the potential for this, as does the statement by President of the
European ParliamentGuy Verhofstadt.
In all of this, while much has rightly been said about the impact on businesses of the
various forms of Brexit, as well as the ongoing rightsof UK and EU citizens to live and work
in each others jurisdictions,relatively little has been reported,other than in specialist papers
such as those of the Standing Group on OrganisedCrime, on the impact on the ght against
organised and economic crime. Cooperation in this area willbe signicantly reduced. After
all, Prime Minister May has repeatedlyemphasised that the entire point of Brexit is to take
back control of our borders, our money and our laws. That may, depending on ones
political stance, make sense when it comes to the UK freeing itself from the shackles of EU
regulation. In addition, there have been repeated statements to the effect that of course the
two sides will seek to continueto share intelligence (although rather less has been saidas to
how, given that the current arrangements for doing so will cease). The ending of certain
specic provisions for legaland judicial cooperation will, however, have a decided impactin
another area: asset recovery. Few would see it as benecial to make it more difcult to
pursue the fruits of a persons crimes and only the most ardent hard Brexiteer would even
see it as a reasonable price to pay for regaining our independence. But Brexit,even under
the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, let alone with no deal at all, will mean precisely
this. Indeed, of the options currently under discussion, only a calling off of Brexit (which
would mean all arrangements currently functioning under the framework of EU laws and
regulations continuingas they do now) would avoid it.
Like many jurisdictions, the UK has two principal means of depriving criminals of the
proceeds of their offences: criminal conscation and civil recovery. Conscation is a
sentence (or part thereof) imposed by a criminal court. Within the European Union, it may
Journalof Financial Crime
Vol.26 No. 2, 2019
pp. 398-400
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/JFC-04-2019-129

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