More than 800 solicitors in England and Wales have sought to be admitted in Ireland since the UK voted to leave the European Union, an influential committee of MPs heard today.
Giving evidence to the House of Commons justice committee, Alison Hook, co-founder of legal advisory firm Hook Tangaza and a former head of international at the Law Society, said 806 solicitors have applied to go on the roll in Ireland since June, with some 115 seeking to make the move since the turn of the year.
The figure, Hook said, is more than double that of the number of Ireland nationals who qualify every year.
Last year the Gazette reported that record numbers of solicitors were already seeking admission to practise in Ireland in anticipation of a Brexit vote in the referendum.
If the current trend continues, more than 1,000 solicitors will have sought admittance in Ireland by the end of 2017.
Hook described the trend as largely a ‘precautionary measure’ and said most have simply gone on the Irish roll rather than obtain a practising certificate.
This morning’s session focused on the impact of Brexit on the justice system.
Also giving evidence to the committee were Law Society president Robert Bourns, chairman of the Bar Council Andrew Langdon QC and Simon Gleeson, a partner and financial services expert at magic circle firm Clifford Chance.
Gleeson told the committee that if the UK wishes to remain a financial and legal centre then part of that is free movement of lawyers into the UK and vice versa.
‘As a starting point we have to show the EU, we are open and that we think you should reciprocate,’ he said.
As well as stressing the importance of freedom of movement for lawyers, Bourns also reiterated Chancery Lane's position that maintaining mutual recognition and enforcement of judgments must be maintained.
He added that 36 out of the top 50 UK law firms have at least one office an EU member state and that there are around 3,000 European lawyers in partnership with English solicitors in the UK and across Europe.
Following Theresa May’s speech earlier this month that stating the UK would extricate itself from the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union, Gleeson said this would likely have ‘little impact’.
‘English courts will have regard to what they think legislation should be. The CJEU will continue to have persuasive authority, even though it won’t have a legal authority,’ he told the committee.
Separately, the Law Society said today it is urging the government to:
- Maintain mutual recognition and enforcement of judgments and respect for choice of jurisdiction clauses across the EU in civil cases;
- Maintain collaboration in policing, security and criminal justice;
- Work with the legal services sector to promote England and Wales as the jurisdiction of choice – ensuring legal certainty is maintained throughout the process of withdrawal; and
- Ensure continued access for UK lawyers to practise law and base themselves in EU member states.