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Updated guidance issued on no-deal Brexit practice rights

12 August 2019

Updated guidance has been issued by the UK Ministry of Justice on action that needs to be taken by UK lawyers working in Europe in order to make sure they can continue to practise in the event of a no-deal Brexit. It applies to lawyers working in the EU, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.

There is no expectation of any special treatment for lawyers holding only a UK qualification: the Government expects that lawyers working under UK qualifications and professional titles will need to register in the same way as a non-EU lawyer. They are advised to contact the relevant regulator in the country they are working in (or their own UK regulator) for advice.

For UK lawyers with an EU qualification and professional title, the EU Commission has issued guidance to member states that where individuals have had their qualifications recognised under the EU Mutual Recognition of Qualifications Directive, these should continue to be recognised.

However the Commission has not issued any specific guidance on the recognition of qualifications under the Lawyers Establishment Directive. “We therefore do not know what will happen to affected lawyers in this area,” the Ministry states. “We will update this page if this changes.” Meantime it directs lawyers working under this directive to the relevant regulator in the country they are working in for advice.

UK lawyers resident in Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, who have joined the host state profession and are appropriately registered with the local regulatory body, do not need to take any action to continue to practise in the state where they live. If they are using an EU qualification and professional title, they should contact the relevant regulator in the country they are working in for advice.

Those working in Switzerland can benefit from the UK-Switzerland separation argeement. If registered and working in Switzerland on a permanent basis under their home professional title before Brexit, they do not need to take any action to continue to practise after Brexit as long as they remain registered in Switzerland. Others will need to start their application to register to work in Switzerland under their UK professional title on a permanent basis or transfer to the Swiss professional title within four years of Brexit. If already holding a Swiss qualification, they need take no action as long as they remain registered in Switzerland.

Click here to view the guidance note.

The UK Government is allowing registered European lawyers working in England & Wales until the end of 2020 to re-qualify as a UK lawyer, and to retain their pre-Brexit practice and qualification rights until then, even if there is no deal (click here for details). SSI2019/127 makes the same provision for those in Scotland.

A recent report by the Law Society of England & Wales warned that the UK's legal sector would see a “significant slowdown” in the event of a no-deal Brexit, estimating the hit at £3.5bn on turnover worth £27.9bn at 2017 prices (click here for news item). The Society has also published a Brexit update on dealings with EU bars on post-Brexit relations.

 

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