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The SRA promised to address the omission of its views on the potential consequences of Brexit (from its 2016/17 Risk Outlook) in an Autumn Risk Outlook Brexit Update.
It has done so in a report published in September, but the crux of it is that while it anticipates the decision to leave the EU will impact on certain areas in the future, the impact is not likely to crystallise until after negotiations relating to access to the single market, free movement and immigration policy.
Specifically, is says that the status of EU lawyers working in the UK (whether as a REL, RFL, Exempt Foreign Lawyer, or under the Qualified Lawyer Transfer Scheme) will not change until Brexit negotiations have clarified the future relationship between the UK and the EU. There is no change to employment rights of UK citizens working in the EU nor any change to the SRA's approach to authorising firms (including those with offices in the EU).
One of the key parts of the Brexit negotiations is likely to be the principle of Primacy, under which in case of conflict between EU law and the law of a member state, EU law prevails. Data Protection is one area in which the SRA considers changes are likely due to the decision to leave the EU and the SRA suggests monitoring the Information Commissioners Office website for any announcements relating to this.
One interesting consequence of the Brexit vote has been the increased number of people looking to qualify in other member states and specifically in the Republic of Ireland, which has seen a six-fold increase. The main reason for this is apparently so that solicitors will still be able to argue before EU tribunals such as the European Court of Justice when the UK exits the EU, as the right to do so is currently arises from being a qualified lawyer in an EU member state.
The SRA understands that uncertainty can be damaging and it reinforces that it will support law firms though this period. It is actively engaging with stakeholders and will be pushing though reforms which it considers necessary to reduce bureaucracy and to increase flexibility, in order to 'open up the market to enable innovation and increase competition [to] help the sector grow and attract inward investment'.
For further information, see the SRA's Hot Topic webpage. The Law Society's 90-page document "The EU and the Legal Sector' (Oct 2015) also remains a useful summary of the relevant EU law, as well as on the likely impact of Brexit on different areas of law, despite being produced several months in advance of the referendum.
Client Relationship Manager
T: 0845 056 3949
M: 0743 727 4046
The Law Society has issued a practice note about the risks to solicitors posed by this new legislation, which came into force on 30 September.
The SRA has urged all practices to check HM Treasury’s consolidated list of asset freeze targets, which lists designated persons subject to financial sanction under EU or UK legislation.
The practising certificate renewal period opened on Monday 2 October.
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