Work Still to be Done on Trade Deal

Trade deal with the EU offers ‘little of substance’ to the legal sector according to leading industry figures.

Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

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LONDON (Within The Law) - The Law Society has greeted the announcement of a £668bn trade deal with a great big ‘meh’. Although they said, legal services are included in the deal, the devil is in the detail. The problem is: there isn’t much detail.  

“There is little in the substance at this time to facilitate this vital sector – worth £60bn to the UK economy annually,” they said in their response. 

While Law Society President David Greene said he was pleased the worst-case scenario of no deal had been avoided, he said this was just the beginning of the process. 

“Legal services are not only hugely valuable to our national economy but also to our global reputation – worth £5bn to exports,” he said, “and so for us, this cannot be the end of the story but the starting point: and we will be working with national governments, bars and law societies across the EU to improve the framework for the international legal practice of non-EU lawyers, for their joint practice with local lawyers and for international legal co-operation for the benefit of all clients,” Greene said.

This is a deal with a lot of blank space still left to fill such as on data protection and the recognition of civil and commercial judgements. 

“We also continue to urge the EU to support the UK’s accession to the Lugano Convention which would allow civil and commercial judgments to be recognised cross-border and allow ordinary citizens and small and medium-sized businesses to enforce their rights without taking up prohibitively expensive actions in multiple courts,” he added.

Another point of concern is the adequacy of the UK’s data protection regime. Under EU law data can only flow between the EU and third parties if their data protection regimes are deemed to be adequate. 

Despite the UK having until recently been a part of the EU. Establishing data adequacy could take time. The quickest deal between the EU and a third party currently stands at 18 months with Argentina. 

Charles Brasted, co-head of the Brexit taskforce at Hogan Lovells also raised a note of caution. “There is much detail to study in the new agreement, and more steps before it crystallises into law. One thing that we know will change is how rules are interpreted and applied in the UK, in the context of two separate EU and UK systems. Vast amounts of previously EU-derived law and regulation in the UK will be on a new legal footing from 1 January and potentially open to reinterpretation in its new post-Brexit context.'

Brasted warned that any area of law or regulation previously touched by EU law is potentially affected. “Businesses and their advisers cannot assume that familiar laws and rules will not become faux amis.”

Johnson’s celebratory mood at the deal, therefore, cannot hide the fact that much has been left unresolved. He’s never been one for detail, but when it comes to the UK’s relationship with the EU, and the law, the detail is crucial. 

Even after the deal has been ratified, much will be left up in the air. 

(Written by Tom Cropper, Edited by Klaudia Fior)


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