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UK trade options post-Brexit: evidence provided to the International Trade Select Committee

26 January 2017

The Law Society has provided the International Trade Select Committee with written and oral evidence in response to its inquiry into the UK's trade options post 2019.

The Committee held an inquiry to examine the various trade models that might be available to the UK after Brexit and to consider the trade strengths. It wanted evidence on future trading relationships between the UK and the wider world, as well as between the UK and the EU.

We provided the Committee with evidence of the advantages and disadvantages of potential trade models with the EU for legal services, as well as discussing the potential for further trade with non-EU countries.

Key points outlined

The nature of international legal business

UK law firms have reach all over the EU, with firms present in 25 out of 27 EU member states. The UK also has lawyers in 24 of the 27 member states. In non-EU states, UK lawyers' presence varies on how liberalised they are to legal services. The key for legal services is the ability to deliver 'fly-in, fly-out' services or move people at short notice. It is about being able to establish law firms in other countries and partner with local lawyers.

Legal services and a free trade agreement with the EU 27

For legal services, a free trade agreement with the EU-27 should include acces - or equivalent - to the two main lawyers directives and the Professional Qualifications Directive. The alternative would be 27 different regimes and different levels of market access. A number of EU-27 member states have restrictions on partnerships with local lawyers and foreign firms establishing there.

Legal services and non-EU trade

There are a number of jurisdictions that are targets for liberalisation of the legal services market, and the Law Society is working to remove non-tariff barriers. South Korea is the only example of a market being liberalised by an EU-third country trade agreement.

The Law Society's head of Brussels Office, Mickael Laurans, also gave oral evidence to the Committee.