05 August 2019

Britain's legal sector braces for £3.5bn Brexit shock no-deal slump

The UK is set for a significant slowdown in event of no deal Brexit, according to the Law Society.

The UK, Europe’s biggest international provider of legal services and number two in the world, could be in for a £3.5bn shock from a no deal Brexit, law leaders warned today. The warning came as the Law Society of England and Wales launched its UK-EU future partnership legal services sector report. The report outlines with case studies some of the practical challenges of leaving the EU without a deal or with a deal that pays no attention to professional and business services. 'According to our estimates, the volume of work in legal services would be down £3.5bn'  – nearly 10 per cent  lower than under an orderly Brexit,' said Law Society president Simon Davis. 'Our sector contributed £27.9 billion to the UK in 2018 - 1.4 percent of GDP - and in 2017 posted a trade surplus of £4.4 billion, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Much of this balance of payments surplus is down to access provided by EU Lawyers’ Directives.' Mr David added: 'In general, we have a trade surplus with the EU27 when it comes to services. We have a trade deficit when it comes to manufacturing. And in 2018 the total tax contribution of legal and accounting activities was estimated to be £19.1 billion -  potentially funding the salaries of doctors, nurses, teachers and police officers.'

Call to negotiate

'That is why we are urging the UK government to negotiate a future agreement that enables broader access for legal services so that English and Welsh solicitors can maintain their right to practise in the EU,' Mr Davis said. 'Such an agreement should replicate the Lawyers’ Directives, which provide EU-wide rights on services and establishment, as other models are unlikely to deliver the comprehensive practice rights that have substantially contributed to the UK legal sector’s large export surplus of £4.4bn as of 2017.' He explained:  'There are precedents for such agreements providing necessary in-depth frameworks on legal services: the EU has association agreements through the EEA with Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland and with Switzerland. These extend the application of the Lawyers’ Directives to EFTA countries.'  Mr David concluded, 'The UK legal system is globally respected and the liberalisation of services in the EU has directly contributed to its success.'