Yesterday’s publication of the government’s great repeal bill white paper gives comfort to EU lawyers currently practising in the UK – but not to UK firms’ operations across the EU, a leading regulatory lawyer has said.
The white paper said existing EU directives will become part of UK law post-Brexit, and Iain Miller, partner at Kingsley Napley, said “it must follow that the UK government’s intention is that EU lawyers will continue to enjoy the right to practice in the UK under the Lawyers Services Directive and the Establishment Directive”.
The former permits EU lawyers to provide temporary cross-border services within the EU, without prior notification or registration with the host member state’s Bar. The latter enables lawyers to practice on a permanent basis in another member state and to requalify in that state after three years of practice.
Mr Miller said: “This is clearly good news for EU law firms who currently have London offices or those that wish to establish London offices in the future. Of course the UK’s position may change depending upon the negotiations between the UK and the EU.”
But even if that happened, the fact that the list of reserved legal activities is so narrow would allow an EU lawyer to operate in England and Wales anyway, he said, so long as they did not handle reserved work. Commercial law advice is unreserved.
They would also be helped by the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s plan to allow solicitors to work in unregulated law firm and hold themselves out as solicitors provided they do not undertake a reserved activity.
Either way, an EU firm would be able to operate in England and Wales without needing any regulatory approval, although immigration issues could arise post-Brexit.
However, Mr Miller said the position was still uncertain for firms based in the UK that operate across the EU.
“This would include both domestic firms and those non-EU law firms who have located in London partly because it enables access to the single market. These firms may still need to establish an EU-based entity to preserve access but the nature and extent of their difficulties are still bound up with the negotiations between the EU and the UK.”