Don’t let Brexit jeopardise UK’s valuable services sector
Decades spent building the UK’s unrivalled professional services sector must not be thrown away in an EU deal which ignores Britain’s valuable legal services, the Law Society of England and Wales warned.
Unveiling a new paper: Blind spot – how CETA overlooks legal services, Law Society president Joe Egan said: “We know that leaving the EU will result in some barriers to trade and movement being re-imposed on Britain if we leave the single market.
“We also know that in all but one of its free trade agreements (FTAs) with non-EU states, the EU27 has not opened up its legal services markets. Yet even this exception – the deal with South Korea – is much more restrictive than we would choose, leaving it to EU states to decide whether to open their markets.
“So, as the government forges its negotiating position, we are urging them to ensure that mutual market access is at the heart of any post-Brexit deal.
“The law of England and Wales is flexible, straightforward and is the law of choice for a vast number of transactions. Barring solicitors and barristers qualified in this jurisdiction from advising clients in others would be bad for UK PLC – to which our sector contributes well over £26bn each year.”
Professional services accounted for approximately 7.8% of UK GDP in 2016 – the latest figures – yet the EU trade deal with Canada (CETA), widely touted as the model for the UK post Brexit, does not provide a comprehensive framework for them.
A free trade arrangement could include legal services but it would have to be much more far-reaching than the South Korea FTA.
“A CETA-type FTA would be equivalent to a ‘no deal’ outcome for legal services on market access. We believe including legal services is vital as the solicitor profession is fundamental to helping citizens and businesses adjust to a post-EU era,” Joe Egan added.