The government’s plans for the forthcoming Brexit negotiations contain positive signals for the legal sector, the Law Society of England and Wales said today.

Commenting on the white paper setting out the government’s intentions for exiting the European Union, Law Society president Robert Bourns said:

“Today’s Brexit white paper contains a number of positive commitments that will be welcomed by the legal sector. 

“We have been working closely with the government since the June referendum to understand and represent the legal sector’s priorities as the UK prepares to withdraw from the European Union, and it’s gratifying to see so many of our key concerns have been taken on board by ministers.”

The white paper recognises the need to maintain key cross-European legal mechanisms, including collaboration and information sharing in policing, security and criminal justice, and rules allowing for the mutual recognition and enforcement of civil court judgments.

“Whatever the nature of our final relationship with Europe, these key parts of the justice infrastructure will be vital to maintaining public safety, commerce and access to justice. The government’s express recognition that “effective civil judicial cooperation will provide certainty and protection for citizens and businesses” is a welcome commitment to these core parts of our legal system,” said Robert Bourns.

The Law Society has also cautiously welcomed the white paper’s aim for “the freest possible trade in services between the UK and EU Member States.”

Robert Bourns commented: “We welcome the intention of the government to maintain free trade in services, but here the detail will be crucial.

“We have a large, vibrant and international legal services sector, which contributed £25.7bn to our economy in 2015.  Maintaining recognition of European practising rights for English and Welsh solicitors, as well as protecting the legal professional privilege held by our clients, will be essential steps in supporting the legal sector and the estimated 370,000 people it employs.

“We will continue to work with government to underline the importance of this mutual access, and to emphasise our priorities to ensure the UK maintains a strong and successful legal services sector.”

The Law Society has set out four key priorities for the legal sector in the Brexit negotiations, which are:

  • continued access for UK lawyers to practise law and base themselves in EU member states
  • maintain mutual recognition and enforcement of judgments and respect for choice of jurisdiction clauses across the EU in civil cases
  • maintain collaboration in policing, security and criminal justice
  • to promote England and Wales as the jurisdiction of choice, ensuring that legal certainty is maintained throughout the process of withdrawal.

The Society has also issued a number of reports on Brexit and the legal sector, which are available from our website: