City lobbyists slumped into their armchairs before Christmas when Michel Barnier warned the Square Mile to contemplate its worst nightmare post-Brexit. The EU’s chief negotiator told the UK to forget about a special deal to protect the City of London’s ability to trade on the continent. ‘There is not a single trade agreement that is open to financial services. It doesn’t exist,’ he declared bluntly.
This is disputed. What is not is that the planned exclusion of financial services bodes very ill indeed for the capital’s peerless legal sector.
Brexit secretary David Davis has opined that we could seek a ‘Canada Plus Plus Plus’ deal with the aim of combining the trade elements of the deal done between Brussels and Ottawa with extra provisions to include arrangements for financial services.
But how many pluses? The Law Society has warned that a deal mirroring the EU-Canada’s CETA agreement would exclude legal services. This would leave British lawyers seeking to practise in EU jurisdictions needing to live in those countries and seek admission to local bars. Another nightmare scenario when, as the Gazette has reported, EU governments are rumoured to be priming their national practices to deploy Brexit to push back against the City legal giants that have made such inroads into their territories.
All to play for.