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Joe Egan's speech at Cicero event with Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP

by Joe Egan
8 January 2018

On 13 December, president of the Law Society Joe Egan welcomed the chair of the Treasury Select Committee the Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP to an event co-hosted with Cicero Group at the Common Room.

Cicero event: In Conversation with Nicky Morgan MP, chair of the Treasury Select Committee.

Audience: Public affairs representatives from a variety of industries with an interest in Brexit.

Length: 5-minute introduction speech.

Introductory speech

Good morning - on behalf of the Law Society of England and Wales welcome to this event.

I want to start by thanking Nicky Morgan MP for joining us and to Cicero, and particularly our colleague Iain Anderson, for hosting what I know will be a very useful and thought-provoking discussion.

Nicky has held high profile positions and high office in both government and parliament - she was secretary of state for education and minister for women and equalities, from 2014 to 2016 and she is now the chair of the Treasury Select Committee.

But first and foremost, Nicky is a solicitor and therefore a member of the Law Society.

In her own words she’s swapped the dizzying heights of the City of London skyscrapers for the rabbit warrens of parliament!

Economic contribution of the legal services sector

With her experience of working at the Treasury, and as a former corporate solicitor at Allen & Overy and Travers Smith, Nicky has been a strong advocate of financial services and its contribution to our economy and its importance as we leave the EU.

Legal services are intrinsically linked to the financial sector and represent a significant success story that needs to be told:

  • Our profession is made up of over 170,000 people and 9,000 firms - the majority of which are SMEs.
  • The sector is a significant part of the UK economy - we contribute about £26 billion to GDP, including £3.4 billion to the balance of trade.
  • We employ and train over 380,000 people.

As the figures suggest, we enable and support business of UK PLC both at home and importantly across the world.

The legal sector has generated economic prosperity and growth. The concentration of legal and financial services in the City is a key contributing factor to the UK's prosperity. The UK, and particularly London, is a ‘one stop shop’ for the services required to support financial organisations.

We believe that at this time of significant change, due to the country's withdrawal from the EU, it is essential that our contribution to the economy and the mutual market access of solicitors and firms in the UK and EU are not compromised.

The recognition of the need for an implementation period was well received. It will provide business with certainty and ensure that they will only need to adapt once, which is welcome for both solicitors and their clients.

The Law Society recommends that this implementation arrangement should be based on a 'stand still' arrangement and we urge the Government to work towards a legally binding agreement with the EU as soon as possible.

Mutual market access

Unlike in some other services sectors, the EU has facilitated significant trade by essentially creating a single market for legal services. It is currently easier for a UK lawyer to practise in Paris than it is for a Californian lawyer to practise in Chicago.

Without a new arrangement between the UK and the EU, UK lawyers will face 31 different regulatory regimes in EU and European Free Trade Association states, many of which have significant restrictions on foreign lawyers practising or setting up a firm.

The legal services sector and its clients need certainty and reassurance that there will be no new barriers for the provision of legal services in the EU.

We are calling for a commitment to negotiate mutual access for lawyers to practise law and base themselves in the UK and EU. This should include rights of audience in EU courts and legal professional privilege at the EU Commission.

At this year’s Conservative Party Conference, we were delighted that the lord chancellor, David Lidington, reiterated the government’s support for mutual market access.

But, it is important to emphasise that we need a deal from the negotiations that ensures reciprocal arrangements, so our lawyers can still practise in EU countries, and EU lawyers can still practice in the UK.

We are confident that the government is working hard to avoid a 'no deal' outcome. And that they will avoid accepting an off the shelf model like the Canada-EU 'CETA' agreement – which doesn’t go anywhere near securing the mutual market access in legal services that we need. We are optimistic that the government will address the concerns we are raising on behalf of our members.

To conclude

To conclude I want to thank Nicky and Iain again for being here today.

As president of the Law Society, I am incredibly proud of the achievements of all solicitor MPs including Nicky’s - I am thankful for her service to the legal profession, and our country.

Thank you.