Brexit white paper has some of the right ingredients but proof will be in the pudding

Theresa May’s white paper on Brexit was today given a cautious welcome by the Law Society of England and Wales.

“Tax take from the legal and accountancy sectors alone pays the equivalent of salaries for 50,000 doctors and more than 82,000 nurses so it makes sense that steps are taken to protect this vital sector,” said Law Society president Christina Blacklaws.

“Ultimately the government will be judged on the outcome but today’s white paper is at least pointing in the right direction – however, the final deal will depend too on the priorities of the EU27. There is going to be a tough negotiation towards what looks like a free trade agreement.

“The white paper clearly states the benefits of civil judicial co-operation to both the UK and EU and the fact businesses benefit from legal certainty in situations where disputes arise.

“It also acknowledges the importance of clear rules to resolve disputes and that the future relationship with the EU should protect that and ‘weaker parties’ in disputes involving employees and consumers.

“We have been calling for UK participation in the Lugano Convention after we leave the EU which would ensure a deeper level of judicial co-operation and it is good news the government will seek to achieve this.

“And we are also glad the prime minister has heeded our calls relating to cross-border enforcement of judgments.”

Mutual recognition of professional qualifications has helped law firms in the EU27 and in the UK so has the ability to fly in-fly out to advise on deals; and the ability to recruit the best talent from around the world is fundamental to our global competitiveness.

Law firms in EU countries can currently set up anywhere in the union and lawyers are free to practise. When we leave the EU, solicitors could face different rules not just in 27 different EU countries – but some of those countries have multiple Bars with varying criteria.

Christina Blacklaws added: “It is clear we are facing a more complicated situation for our profession post-Brexit and we hope the government will do everything it can to mitigate harm to the professional and business services sector which are worth more than the manufacturing, mining and extractive industries combined – exporting £66.1bn annually.

“Every time there is one per cent growth in the UK legal services sector 8,000 new jobs are created and £379m is added to the wider economy.

“Our professional services are a global export and a vital contribution to the UK economy and its balance of payments.”

The Law Society also welcomed the goal of securing intellectual property rights and steps to prevent consumers being misled about goods.


Credit: Ben Davies | The Law Society

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