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What will happen to UK lawyers after Brexit transition period?

Updated: Jul 19, 2020

What is it about?

According to the Financial Times, Britain is arguing for the continued recognition of rights for British lawyers to practice in the EU after the Brexit transition period ending this December. This is to avoid British lawyers having to obtain new qualifications or authorisations to practice English and international law in the EU.

However, the EU’s response is not favourable. Firstly, they think Britain is trying to “cherry pick” rights beneficial to them whilst standing outside the rules of the EU. Secondly, they don’t see why they need to assist the UK maintain its position as the global hub for legal services and civil and commercial litigation when they can now develop their own services within the EU. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, has said: “Do we really want the UK to remain a centre for commercial litigation for the EU, when we could attract these services here?”

Thinking beyond

The status of British lawyers post-Brexit transition period is a particularly important issue to the UK. This is because the UK has been both the global and EU’s hub for legal services for years. It has the biggest legal sector in the EU and second biggest globally, with the first being the US. Also, legal services make up 1.5% of the UK’s GDP. This means that if British lawyers can no longer advise within the bloc without new qualification or authorisation, it would become difficult for law firms in London to advise on cross-border disputes or M&As and thus affect the London’s reputational status as the hub for legal services. This will not be a good news to law firms in London that will lose lucrative cross-border deals from their revenue streams.

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