Addressing a Westminster Hall debate, the leading conservative politician, Bob Neill, called for the UK to automatically grant European lawyers the right to work and practice in the UK once it has separated from the EU. He argued that a settlement agreement should be struck with EU partners, and one which would make it as easy as possible for European lawyers to practise in the UK, as well as the other way round.
Neill, the chair of the Commons justice select committee and himself a practicing lawyer, told the parliamentary debate that legal qualifications should be mutually recognised. This would avoid, he said, the difficult situation whereby a lawyer who is English, but who also holds Irish qualifications, such as himself, could only use their Irish qualification to work in the EU, and could not use their qualification from England.
Emphasising the importance of a mutually beneficial, mutually permissive agreement, the MP pressed that legal firms in the UK should be able to provide professionals on the continent, as well as European providers being given full permission to offer their lawyers to UK clients.
Pointing towards the significant spike in the numbers of barristers from England looking to join the Bar in Ireland, as well as UK solicitors joining the Irish Law Society, he suggested that lawyers are already anticipating a human resources crisis in the UK. He proposed that it may be considerably more shrewd to hold on to these UK legal professionals, and incorporate this into a Brexit deal.
Further, fully convenient and uncompromised migration between UK and EU legal offices should be made possible by an immigration agreement. He suggested that in order for UK firms to keep on bringing in the most talented European lawyers, restrictions on immigration would have to be as light as they possibly could be.
The pleas of Bob Neill, who is MP for Bromley, were met with some assurance from Lucy Frazer QC, the minister for justice, though she did not elaborate on her agreement that the legal industry does indeed deserve, and should expect, a high degree of certitude.
‘Rules on market access will continue’, claimed the justice minister.
The justice minister claimed that access to the market will run along the same regulations as it does currently. Referring to the Brexit withdrawal agreement, Frazer added that those lawyers who are qualified in an EU state, but come under the umbrella of the agreement for UK citizens, can expect to be allowed to continue their legal practice, and have their qualifications recognised. It was agreed last week, Frazer continued, that the present rules will continue into the period of implementation.
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