UK lawyers will not lose their voice at the heart of the European legal profession, it has emerged. Following the end of the Brexit transition period, the UK’s delegation to the Council of European Bars and Law Societies (CCBE) had been threatened with relegation to 'associate' or 'observer' status, which would have severely affected its ability to take part. But, in a move welcomed by the Law Society and Bar Council, the CCBE has voted to create a new a category of 'affiliate' membership for the UK.
A CCBE spokeswoman said the 'affiliate' membership status will allow the UK to remain active within the organisation, but with certain restrictions, in particular on matters relating to EU policies. It is understood that there was some opposition to the change.
Founded in 1960, the CCBE represents the bars and law societies of 45 countries from the EU, the European Economic Area, and wider Europe, and through them more than 1 million lawyers.
Continued membership of the CCBE is vital to UK lawyers as they seek to facilitate the mutual recognition of UK legal qualifications in the EU.
Mickaël Laurans, head of international at the Law Society, said: 'Maintaining an active and meaningful membership of the CCBE (beyond observer membership) was a key objective for us, both in relation to keeping a voice and bringing the UK experience on important issues such as human rights, the rule of law and professional practice matters as well as for our relations with all European bars and law societies.
'It is also important for our members that we continue our engagement with our counterparts in Europe on a wide range of legal issues.'
Hugh Mercer QC, chair of the Bar Council’s Brexit working group, said: 'In conjunction with the government’s trade deal, the CCBE membership provides a basis for working together and means we are still very much in Europe.' He said that EU bars and law societies are 'the most united group of lawyers in the world and the interaction between them is the strongest'. He hoped that the UK would continue to work closely with the CCBE on matters of common interest.