Vale & West Chartered Accountants Blog

Law Society ponders “ideal” trading relationship with EU

The Law Society for England and Wales has outlined its “ideal” UK-EU trading relationship and has highlighted potential risks to the sector should the UK leave the bloc with no deal in place.

The report, published this month, explores each of the possible trading scenarios and analyses how different future relationships will affect England and Welsh solicitors.

The regulator has highlighted the significant contribution the legal sector makes to the UK economy each year, with the industry employing some 329,000 people and generating £27.4 billion for the economy each year – or around 1.4 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).

It says much of this income relies heavily on market access provided by EU directives – all of which could be stripped away should the UK leave without a deal.

Under current legislation, EU laws allow English and Welsh law firms to advise on all legal matters which concern them in any EU member state.

Likewise, the directives recognise English and Welsh legal qualifications and enable solicitors to requalify in EU member states with few barriers compared to non-EU lawyers.

Importantly, the laws also allow solicitors to represent clients in the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), domestic courts and other fora (such as arbitral proceedings and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms).

Given this level of freedom and autonomy, the Law Society says an ideal trading arrangement would see these EU directives propagate into any new laws set out by both the UK and EU Governments.

The regulator also warns that purely a free trade arrangement (FTA) with the EU will not be enough, given that many of the benefits to English and Welsh solicitors are provided through EU laws and directives. Instead, the UK should seek to reach an association agreement, it says.

Commenting on the report, the Law Society said: “All outcomes are explored in relation to market access to ensure the continued success of the UK legal sector.

“We conclude in the paper that only an association agreement can adequately deliver on legal services, and that the openness of England and Wales for EEA lawyers should be maintained.”

To access the report in full, please click here.

For help and advice preparing your law firm for life after Brexit, please get in touch with our expert team.

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