Mutual recognition of legal qualifications has emerged as a stumbling block in the stalled negotiations over a free trade agreement between the UK and the EU. The government this week published an outline of a free trade agreement - which the UK says draws on previous EU agreements with Canada and Japan - which would set up ’a framework to facilitate a fair, transparent and consistent regime for the mutual recognition of professional qualifications’. 

EU officials said this demand amounts to cherry-picking of elements of the EU internal market, which the UK formally leaves on 31 December, and goes beyond any deal previously agreed by Brussels.   

Simon Davis, Law Society president, said that the £60bn annual contribution of legal services to UK economy has brought benefits to both the UK and the EU27 economies and any trade deal should be 'highly ambitious for our sector'.

'It is crucial the government seeks the best possible access to the EU27 for our legal professionals as well as recognition of their qualifications once the post-Brexit transition period finishes.'

However Davis said that a free trade agreement 'is unlikely to come anywhere near' the depth of access enabled by the single market. 'What is clear is that those UK lawyers who practise EU law or appear in EU courts will no longer able to do so without requalifying.'

Sam Lowe of thinktank the Centre for European Reform said the UK request to have British qualifications recognised by default ’goes far beyond the EU-Japan deal, or the Ceta deal with Canada. This is not necessarily impossible but it is not the kind of things the EU hands readily in its free trade agreements.’

The next round of negotiations opens on 1 June.