The SRA yesterday published a brief update on the issues it is considering in light of the EU referendum.
The update confirms that there has been:
- No change in its approach to authorising firms, including those with branch offices or related businesses in the EU.
- No change to the regulatory position of EU lawyers working in the UK and in particular no change in the Registered European Lawyers, Exempt European Lawyers or Registered Foreign Lawyers arrangements, or the Qualified Lawyer Transfer Scheme.
- No change to employment rights of UK citizens working in other EU member states, or their right to argue before the EU tribunals, such as the ECJ.
The update acknowledges that it is likely that the decision to leave the EU will impact at least some of these areas in the future: the nature of the impact will depend on the outcome of negotiations around access to the single market, free movement and future immigration policy.
The SRA reports that there has been an increase in applicants looking to qualify in other EU member states this year, with 319 UK-based solicitor applicants in Republic of Ireland this year, 6 times the number in 2015. This spike in popularity seems to have been driven by concerns over rights to argue. It is possible that there may also be a spike in EU lawyers looking to register or qualify under the current regime.
Those leading legal teams will have the same considerations as employers generally. If you have on your team UK lawyers practising in the EU or EU lawyers practising in the UK, the key issue to watch will be free movement of workers.
The best political solution in the end may be an amnesty allowing EU migrants to remain in the UK post-Brexit (and UK workers to remain where they are), as suggested in an article by James Davies and Bethan Carney of Lewis Silkin. In the meantime, a cautionary reminder from Rob Beardmore’s recent blog post: freedom of movement remains law, so beware of discrimination in recruitment, inadvertent or otherwise.