Conn MacEvilly is a senior advisor in Covington’s Public Policy practice group. He is a barrister with over 25 years’ experience in the public and private sectors in the UK and other European jurisdictions. A member of Covington’s Global Problem Solving team, Conn helps solve clients’ most complex challenges, combining legal work with sophisticated policy strategies.

His practice encompasses UK policy and regulation, focusing on technology and financial services regulation. As a Barrister, Conn has also advised clients in the energy, technology, genomics, and manufacturing sectors. Formerly a United Kingdom Government European Fast Streamer, Conn worked at the European Commission Legal Service in Brussels and for the UK’s Department for Trade and Industry, where he drafted some of the early legislation on e-commerce.

Conn was recently the Chief of Staff of the UK government’s COVID-19 Task Force, co-ordinating the response to the COVID-19 emergency across all government departments in direct liaison with the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, English local authorities, Public Health England and the National Health Service, industry and other nations in Europe.

Prior to that, he was in private practice at the Bar in Lincoln’s Inn, London, specialising in commercial litigation in high-value cases relating to oil and gas, insurance and insolvency. He was ranked as a leading litigator in Legal 500, described as “clearly on top of the law in his specialist areas; courteous and assertive without being aggressive, which gains the respect of his peers and the bench.”

On 6 September 2022, Liz Truss was appointed prime minister of the United Kingdom. With her appointment, Government business will resume after the inevitable hiatus caused by the Conservative Party’s internal election process.

PM Truss has been busy – making her first speech (in which she set out her priorities); taking her first set of Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons; and appointing her Cabinet and junior Ministers as well as the support staff in her own Office. These actions provide the first reliable indicators of her strategic vision for the country – and of her capacity to deliver it.

Truss’s first speech was aspirational but short on strategic vision for her government. The speech did set out a statement of intent in focusing on boosting economic growth, tackling the energy crisis and investing in the National Health Service, but there was no plan for how these goals will be delivered.

However, Truss’ Cabinet appointments perhaps provide a much clearer guide as to the nature and intentions of her government. She has surrounded herself with Ministers and Senior Advisors who share a common intellectual framework and ideology. Almost all are alumni of think-tanks and policy groups that are on the right-wing of the Conservative Party: the Adam Smith Institute, the Institute for Economic Affairs, and the Taxpayers’ Alliance. All espouse reducing the size of the state, increasing competition, enabling free markets, and reducing taxation.

Continue Reading The Truss Government – What Inferences Can We Draw?

On Monday 13 June, the UK Government tabled a Northern Ireland Protocol Bill (The NIP Bill) giving it the power to dis-apply parts of the N Ireland Protocol (NIP), an integral part of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA).  The EU’s response was immediate: unfreezing the 2021 legal action commenced in response to the UK’s unilateral decision not to apply checks to incoming goods from GB to N Ireland.  In the months to come, the UK may face a second legal action by the EU in respect of The NIP Bill.  Without resolution, this issue could ultimately undo the TCA, igniting a trade war between the EU and the UK.

On 14 June, the first UK Government flight taking asylum seekers and refugees from the UK to Rwanda was prevented from taking off by a last minute intervention by an ECHR Judge.   This intervention triggered a backlash among right-wing politicians and commentators, who began to call for the UK to withdraw from the Convention itself – a suggestion which was not discounted by the PM when he was asked about it later.  It will take several months for the courts to decide whether the policy is legal: during that time, the Government appears to have accepted that no more flights to Rwanda can depart, leaving its flagship immigration policy equally grounded.

But the question of membership of the ECHR matters not only for the important principle of international protection of human rights, but because the ECHR is one of the pillars on which the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) rests.  The GFA brought an end to 30 years of The Troubles, and imposed an obligation on the UK to incorporate the Convention into the law of N Ireland to make it directly enforceable in N Ireland’s courts. The UK’s 1998 Human Rights Act did this.  Leaving the ECHR, therefore, to force through the Rwanda asylum policy, would breach the GFA, which the UK Government argues The NIP Bill is intended to defend. 

How did we get here?

Continue Reading Northern Ireland Protocol and the ECHR