Tuesday, January 29, 2019

What will a ‘No-Deal’ Brexit mean for RELs?

The SRA recently released guidance on the impact that a ‘no deal’ EU exit scenario will have on Registered European Lawyers (‘RELs’) practising in the UK, law firms that employ them and anyone providing legal services across the UK/EU border.

The guidance is specific to a ‘no deal’ scenario and is not intended to provide any definitive answers on the impact of Brexit on legal services, which will ultimately depend on the outcome of negotiations between the UK government and the EU.

Key points to note are as follows:

  • A ‘no deal’ Brexit will lead to the removal of EU law and any domestic legislation which creates a separate regime for the free movement and provision of services of lawyers in the EU (on a temporary and permanent basis), compared to that of other foreign lawyers.
  • A Statutory Instrument will revoke the legislation that grants these rights and set out the transitional arrangements that will apply.
  • The removal of these provisions will be necessary in a 'no deal' scenario to ensure the UK complies with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, which do not allow for preferential treatment of one nation over another.

The Statutory Instrument will introduce transitional arrangements to the effect that:

  • Those who have registered with the SRA as RELs on exit day will be able to continue to practice as RELs until the end of December 2020.
  • There will be no new registrations of EEA lawyers as RELs from exit day (i.e. 29th March 2019), but those who have made an application to the SRA for REL status before exit day, can have a decision on that application after exit day and, if granted, continue to practice as a REL until the end of December 2020.
  • RELs will, subject to meeting the eligibility criteria, be able to seek admittance into the solicitor's profession under the 3-year 'integration route' during the transition period.

As one of the designated regulators of RELs, if there is no deal, the SRA will be responsible for ensuring the orderly removal of the REL regime and other EU legal services rules that affect the way they regulate, in accordance with the arrangements above.

Other future options open to EEA lawyers in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit:

  • Qualify as a solicitor under the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS).
  • Register as a Registered Foreign Lawyer (RFL) (although much more restricted practising rights will apply).
  • EEA Lawyers may provide unreserved legal services or be involved in businesses providing legal services in England and Wales under their home title without registering with a regulator.

For more information, the full guidance note can be found at:
https://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/guidance/ethics-guidance/Government’s-Technical-Notice-on-the-impact-of-a-‘no-deal’-EU-exit-scenario-on-EU-lawyers-practising-in-the-UK.page