Law Society gives evidence to International Trade Select Committee

On Wednesday 26 June, our head of international Mickaël Laurans gave evidence to the International Trade Select Committee as part of their ongoing inquiry on trade in services.

The session focused mainly on GATS Mode 4 provision.

Read a transcript of the session

Listen to a recording of the session

Mickaël was joined on the witness panel by:

  • Joanna Jacobsson, professor for international and European Law at IE University
  • Françoise Guei, an expert in multilateral trade issues from the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States Secretariat

Over the course of the session, Mickaël emphasised that the European directives currently allow uniform access to member states for UK legal services professionals.

He highlighted the fact that most Brexit outcomes will lead to legal professionals encountering 31 different regulatory regimes, some of which do not permit access to third-country lawyers at all.

He observed that South Korea’s agreement with the EU is the only one to liberalise legal services market access, and that a free trade agreement would likely provide the same amount of legal services access as a no-deal Brexit.

He advised the committee that to secure market access for services in non-EU markets, we will likely have to offer access to the professions the state in question is prioritising.

Within the session, Mickaël also:

  • raised the importance of Mode 4, as it permits fly-in fly-out service provision to other countries, which in turn encourages clients to travel to the UK for advice and disputes
  • suggested the committee might be underestimating the level of non-tariff barriers faced by lawyers
  • explained how EU directives let lawyers from member states do everything they need, and observed that it is easier for an English lawyer to give advice in France than it is for a New York lawyer to do so in California
  • informed the committee that both leaving without a deal or with an FTA would mean English and Welsh lawyers are likely to face 31 different regulatory regimes, some of which will not be accessible at all, referencing Greece and France when prompted for examples
  • argued that to gain Mode 4 access for service sectors, then we need to accept that countries we trade with will want access in return – to gain legal services market access in India, for example, the UK would likely have to allow access to Indian IT professionals, doctors and engineers

We will continue to engage with government and parliament on key Brexit matters, and update our members on key developments and guidance.

Read our previous written evidence to the inquiry

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