Tuesday 23 January 2018

Fears Brexit could impact on arrangements allowing Irish lawyers work in Britain

Hundreds of Irish-qualified solicitors have forged careers in Britain. Stock photo: PA
Hundreds of Irish-qualified solicitors have forged careers in Britain. Stock photo: PA
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Brexit is causing uncertainty over arrangements allowing Irish solicitors to practise in England and Wales, the head of the Law Society has warned.

Since 1989, qualifications in both common law jurisdictions have been mutually recognised under an EU directive, allowing solicitors to work with relative ease on both sides of the Irish Sea.

Hundreds of Irish-qualified solicitors have forged careers in Britain since then, particularly during the recession.

In recent times, hundreds of English and Welsh solicitors have also entered the Irish roll of solicitors in an effort to maximise their status as European law practitioners ahead of the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

Law Society director general Ken Murphy said the directive had been beneficial and there would be concerns if mutual recognition were to end as a result of Brexit.

"If EU law doesn't apply, England and Wales will not be compelled to keep such an arrangement in place," he said.

"Nobody is seeking to end it, but certainly Brexit is creating uncertainty about its future."

His comments came as figures published by the society showed some 511 English and Welsh solicitors entered the Irish roll this year up to November. This is in addition to 806 who joined it last year.

However, Mr Murphy said rumours that loads of English firms would be starting up here had so far been baseless. Of the 1,317, only about 250 have taken out practising certificates, a further requirement needed before they can practise here.

Mr Murphy said soundings he had taken from law firms in London indicated they were not seeking to set up bases here and were more than happy to use the expertise of Irish firms when required. Instead, the major concerns of the UK firms relate to their right of access to EU courts and the entitlement of their clients to legal privilege in EU investigations.

Irish Independent

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