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Don’t let Brexit jeopardise UK’s valuable services sector

30 January 2018

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.

Notes to editors

View the report


The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is a free-trade agreement between Canada, the European Union and its member states. In its 30 chapters and several protocols, CETA covers such areas as goods, financial services, cross-border supply of services, e-commerce, competition policy, telecommunications, maritime transport, subsidies, investment, customs and trade facilitation, technical barriers to trade, domestic regulation, regulatory cooperation, trade remedies, mutual recognition of qualifications, temporary entry and stay of natural persons for business purposes, government procurement, sustainable development, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, labour, environment, bilateral dialogues and cooperation, administrative and institutional provisions, transparency and dispute settlement (full text).

Practice rights in South Korea

  • EU lawyers are permitted to advise in South Korea, provided that they are registered with the Ministry of Justice of Korea as Foreign Legal Consultants, the requirements for which include having to have practised in their home jurisdiction for at least three years;
  • EU firms of lawyers may provide legal representation on international issues in South Korea, but this is limited to advising on public international law and treaties in which one of the State parties is the jurisdiction where a Foreign Legal Consultant is qualified (i.e. English lawyers can advise on UK treaties);
  • EU firms of lawyers may provide representation in international arbitration in South Korea;
  • EU law firms may offer domestic (and international) legal services in South Korea through joint ventures, but EU law firms' share in the joint venture is limited to 49%.

About the Law Society

The Law Society of England and Wales is the independent professional body that works globally to support and represent solicitors, promoting the highest professional standards, the public interest and the rule of law.

Press office contact: Ben Davies | | +44 (0)20 7316 5592