The Law Societies have continued to call on negotiators from both sides to work towards a deal. While the draft legal texts published by both sides demonstrate a different approach to the negotiations, there are plenty of examples of shared aims or instances where the end goal is mirrored by both EU and UK.
This can be seen for example in the mutual desire to address recognition of professional qualifications, where an agreement could help ensure that the millions of individuals who have achieved professional qualifications from both EU and UK institutions are able to rely on and fully utilise them. Similarly, there is a clear ambition from both sides to ensure a level of co-operation in the field of criminal justice and security, including money laundering and terrorist financing. These mutual aims must be built upon in order to reduce the level of disruption facing businesses and consumers.
Despite the tight timeframes, the Law Societies further encourage both sides and especially the UK Government to remain ambitious and deliver on objectives announced earlier in the year and in 2019.
In legal services, we have advocated for broad practice rights for UK lawyers. These included the right to advise clients on home and public and private international law in all four GATS modes. These rights must be supplemented through provisions on mobility (including the right to short-term business visitor visas or visas for the purpose of fulfilling contractual services) and the ability to represent clients in arbitration, conciliation and mediation.
In parallel to rights at the individual level, we have advocated for the UK lawyers to set up a law firm under host or home state rules, and to enable UK lawyers to either be employed by local lawyers or form partnerships with local lawyers on an equal footing.
Furthermore, in case of recognition of qualifications we advocate for having UK home titles recognised and for UK lawyers to have a clear path to requalify into host state profession.
We are closely following the ongoing developments and have made numerous representations that advocate for practice rights for our members. We have underlined in particular that in order to be able to fully assess the proposals made by the EU and UK, it is necessary to see the relevant annexes with all reservations (these have not been published yet but are very important in negotiations).
Alongside the main negotiations on a future agreement, the Law Societies are in favour of having a data adequacy decision to allow the free flow of data between the UK and EU, and for the UK’s application to the Lugano Convention on civil and commercial judicial cooperation and enforcement of judgments to be agreed to. The Law Societies have long been calling for the UK to accede to the Lugano Convention as UK and EU trade will continue and it is critical that where disputes arise those affected are able to seek redress in a way which is neither overly complex or prohibitively costly. We continue to stress the importance of the Lugano Convention to EU stakeholders and the role of support it provides for consumers and small businesses.