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John Redwood, former cabinet minister and Conservative MP for Wokingham, has warned UK mediators that some of their methods could be criminalised if the EU is successful in implementing its plans to regulate the profession
Redwood aired these views at a debate attended by 55 leading UK mediators entitled 'Should Britain allow the European Union to set standards for our mediators?'. The event was held by commercial mediation organisation the ADR Group in response to an EU green paper published earlier this year calling for common standards for all of Europe's mediators.
Speaking to The Lawyer, Redwood said that if the UK adopted EU common standards, UK mediators could be criminalised for flouting regulations, or at the very least be sued by clients that are unhappy with the outcome of mediations.
"If British mediators take the risk of being regulated at EU level, this could certainly turn some accepted practices into criminal offences," said Redwood. "As soon as you internationalise legal systems you will find there are some things you can't do.
"Another possibility is that, if British mediators flout minimum EU standards, they could be sued by aggrieved parties or clients who think they have a course of action against them. At the very least this will mean mediators having to take out bigger insurance policies."
Redwood compared his theory with fears over established City of London practices becoming criminalised if the EU ever harmonises the rules governing Europe's financial markets.
But Samuel Passow, ADR Group head of research, dismissed Redwood's comments about criminalisation. "I think he was just being flippant. Mediators couldn't be criminalised because mediation is consensual and voluntary," he said.
Redwood was speaking against the motion opposite Keith Vaz, Labour MP for Leicester East, who was in favour. The mediators present voted overwhelmingly for Redwood's case.
Vaz argued that the UK Government should enter into discussions with Brussels over the green paper's proposals, but Redwood said Brussels should have nothing to do with an industry that, he argued, the UK leads in Europe.
"Whenever Britain is really good at something, the EU seems keen to regulate it and gain power over it," Redwood said in his speech.