Chancery Lane has warned against plans by the Solicitors Regulation Authority to remove EU lawyers' exemptions from tests to qualify in England and Wales in the event of a ‘no-deal' Brexit.
The Law Society said the plans could cause an ‘unnecessary barrier to qualification’ which could have the knock-on effect of making England and Wales a less attractive jurisdiction and imperil its position as Europe's largest legal market.
Under EU regulations governing the mutual recognition of professional qualifications the SRA can grant EU lawyers exemptions from the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) tests, or from parts of them. This would not be possible in the event of a 'no-deal' Brexit because of the World Trade Organisation's Most Favoured Nation principle banning preferential treatment.
The SRA is consulting on two options for QLTS exemptions in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit. These are either to permit no exemptions from the QLTS or allowing candidates from all non-UK jurisdictions to apply for exemptions.
In its response to the consultation published yesterday, the Law Society says it 'strongly' disagrees with the proposal to remove exemptions entirely. While backing the SRA's decision to put contingency plans in place it states that there is room and justification for exceptions to the WTO rules.
Mutual recognition agreements, or other existing arrangements in full compliance with WTO obligations, could be an option, the Society states. ‘This would allow, for example, the England and Wales agreement with Ireland on automatic recognition to continue. Likewise, we think it is important for those lawyers who have studied EU law to be able to apply for exemptions on that basis.’
The SRA's consultation closed yesterday.
The Law Society has published guidance on Brexit and the legal sector.