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SRA unveils contingency plans for no-deal Brexit

21 March 2019

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The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has confirmed potential changes to its rules regarding non-UK solicitors in case the country leaves the EU without a deal at the end of the month.

The regulator has said that in the case of a no-deal Brexit all foreign lawyers will be able to apply for exemptions from the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS), were previously this only applied to lawyers from the EU.

The news was unveiled at an SRA media briefing on 19 March, just as news broke that prime minister Teresa May had written to EU Council President Donald Tusk requesting to delay Brexit until 30 June.

This led the board to clarify that the change will only apply in the case of a no-deal Brexit, “if it doesn’t happen then our chair reneges the rule change”, chief executive Paul Philip said.

Executive director of external and corporate affairs Jane Malcolm said any extension to the current situation would only mean that changes were delayed until that point, when a no-deal Brexit may still be a potential outcome.

The rule change, which would come into force as soon as no-deal withdrawal from the EU was enacted, would be on the condition that foreign lawyers cover either the entirety or both parts of the QLTS.

The exemptions would still only be granted on the basis of a case-by-case review of that lawyer’s qualifications and experience.

The regulator also confirmed that regardless of the outcome of Brexit negotiations, arrangements for solicitors from Scotland and Northern Ireland would not change.

EU-based lawyers wishing to apply under the present court exemptions regime can still do so, providing their application is received before the date that any no-deal Brexit becomes effective.

The SRA said the rule changes were drawn up in December 2018 with feedback from stakeholders and the profession, which was broadly in favour of the chosen approach.

The government has now made legislative changes to the EU (recognition of professional qualifications) Regulations, which will come into effect in the event of a no-deal Brexit, at which point he SRA’s changes would also kick in.

Philip said: “Whatever the outcome of the negotiations it is important that we are prepared to make sure the transition to any new arrangements takes place as seamlessly as possible, with as little disruption as possible for. The profession or the public who need their services.”

EU lawyers are currently able to apply for exemptions from the QLTS, which all foreign-qualified lawyers must sit to qualify in England and Wales.

In the event of no-deal, this would have to change as World Trade Organisation rules would prevent the preferential treatment of EU lawyers.

 

 

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