Mutual recognition of qualifications and regulatory frameworks top a list of essential elements of the post-2019 relationship between the EU and UK, Britain’s professional services sector has told the prime minister. The wish-list appears in a letter signed by 42 senior figures, including the president of the Law Society, representing of law firms, consultancies, architecture practices and others under the banner of the Professional and Business Services Council (PBSC). 

The letter points out that the sector employs 4.6 million people and contributes £188bn in gross value to the UK each year - more than the manufacturing, mining and extractive industries combined. 'We underpin the integrity of the markets and support business confidence,’ states the council’s business chair, Nick Owen chairman of Deloitte north west Europe. 'We are a key reason why people the world over come to transact and resolve disputes in our country.’

With this in mind, the letter states, it is essential that we can continue to serve our clients and support the wider economy after the UK leaves the EU. However this will require:

  • Mutual recognition of professional qualifications, products and operating licences;
  • Mutual recognition of the regulatory frameworks and regulators, from data protection to audiovisual media policy laws to statutory audits;
  • The ability of service providers to fly-in-fly-out to facilitate advice across the EU27 and trade across Europe;
  • Mutual recognition of judgments so deals across EU27 countries can proceed with legal certainty;
  • Continued cooperation in areas that facilitate trade – such as data sharing;
  • The ability to educate and recruit the best talent from overseas, whether from the EU or beyond; and
  • Reduced uncertainty through any transition period.

While the letter does not use the term, the wish-list adds up to a plea for a so-called ‘soft Brexit’. The letter states: 'Failing to negotiate these elements would impair our ability to provide our services with the same range, depth and speed our clients around the world experience today, damaging their businesses and putting our sectors at a distinct competitive disadvantage.’

It notes that with the balance of trade in goods in its favour, the EU is likely to seek to prioritise this in negotiations. 'However, the UK needs to get the right deal on professional and other services given our relative strengths and current competitive position.’

Apart from Joe Egan, Law Society president, signatories from the legal profession include Wim DeJonghe, senior partner at magic circle firm Allen & Overy, James Palmer, senior partner at international firm Herbert Smith Freehills and Steve Cooke, senior partner at magic circle firm Slaughter and May.