Conservative MP for South East Cambridgeshire, Lucy Frazer QC, has been appointed as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, becoming the only Jewish woman currently in government.
Lucy's new responsibilities are wide ranging and within her purview will be court reform, legal aid and fees, criminal and family justice and supporting the Brexit secretary.
Lucy will work under David Gauke MP, the new Secretary of State for Justice, who replaces David Lidington CBE.
The appointment of the local MP and Newnham alumnae to the Ministry of Justice has been welcomed by many, in particular because of her impressive background in the legal sector. Lucy practiced commercial law with experience in financial services, taking Silk at the age of 40 before being elected to Parliament in 2015.
Originally from Yorkshire, Lucy's connection with the Cambridgeshire region stems from her studies at Newnham College and tenure as the President of the Cambridge Union.
Prior to her appointment, Lucy has courted some controversy with a tongue-in-cheek reference in her maiden speech to enslaving Scots as an answer to the West Lothian question. The vehement backlash included an abusive voicemail from one incensed Scot who was prosecuted for his threats.
The impact of Lucy's experienced hand in the much-needed reform of the legal system is keenly anticipated, as is her influence on legislative changes arising from Brexit.
Brexit Update: Where in the world are we?
Amongst the protracted negotiations and positioning there appears to be some progress towards agreeing some of the terms on the UK's exit from the EU, albeit short on detail. Developments to note include:
a) Exit and Transition: Exit is still scheduled for 29th March 2019, after which there will be a period of transition. The UK has suggested may last "as long as it takes" and is expected to be no shorter than two years. It does not seem likely that much will change during this period: free movement is likely to continue and EU laws will still be effective, including any new laws made without the input of UK representatives.
b) Post Transition: The shape of the relationship between the UK and the EU after this transition period is less clear and will not be negotiated until after transition phase provisions have been agreed. In a speech on 2nd March 2018 on the UK's future, Theresa May has warned that "no-one will get everything they want" and suggested that single market access will be "less than it is now". Mrs May has cautioned that "hard facts" may have to be accepted which could include a certain degree of continued influence of the ECJ and compliance with the "high" EU regulatory standards.
c) Trade and Regulation: Mrs May has now given some indication of her intentions for the UK's future relationship with the EU:
(i) Banks will lose the automatic right to trade across the EU (passporting) but with a replacement system to be implemented over time;
(ii) An Independent Arbitration Mechanism (as yet undefined) will replace the jurisdiction of the ECJ over trade disputes.
(iii) EU Agencies regarding medicines, chemicals and aviation will allow the UK's continued membership, subject to appropriate financial contributions.
(iv) Science, education, culture and energy programmes (including Euratom) participation will continue.d) Farming: As the UK's participation in Common Agricultural Policy comes to an end, Environment Secretary Michael Gove has suggested that payments based on the amount of land farmed may cease and, instead, farmers will receive money for "public goods" such as investment in sustainable food production.
e) Rest of the world: As the UK and EU continue to negotiate, extra-European trade deals are being courted and considered by the government. The US has offered the UK a more limited "Open Skies" aviation deal than is currently enjoyed by the EU, a possible sign of the "back of the queue" stance that may be adopted (on the basis that Brits love to queue).
f) Scrutiny: In what was hailed as a triumph for democracy, Parliament rejected the proposed "Henry VIII powers" allowing the government to convert EU laws onto the UK statute book without Parliamentary scrutiny. Mrs May has now agreed to set up a new committee of MPs to monitor proposed legal changes.
g) Everything else: Since the referendum, the number of new laws introduced in Britain has fallen to a 20 year low, with Ministers reporting that they struggle to get policy initiatives past Number 10 because of the focus on Brexit. Amongst others, plans to increase devolution and reform education appear to have fallen by the wayside. It is anticipated that the Great Repeal Act will spawn hundreds of pieces of additional legislation to rebuild the UK's legal framework following Brexit, and this diversion of resources away from other issues is therefore expected to continue.
The outcome of the next stage of negotiations between the EU and UK this Spring is eagerly anticipated when it is hoped that embryonic shape of the UK's economic and constitutional future will become clearer.