190802 Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson Image Credit: AFP

Brussels: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson got another warning of the potentially dire effects of a no-deal Brexit, this time from lawyers who said that crashing out of the European Union would put 10,000 legal jobs at risk and may cost the industry about £3.5 billion.

In a report on Thursday, the Law Society called on Johnson’s government to reach an agreement with the EU that allows English and Welsh solicitors to maintain their right to practice in the soon-to-be 27 nation bloc. Without any accord preserving lawyers’ rights, UK legal services revenue could slump by nearly 10%, the professional body warned.

“Whilst some positive steps have been taken to prepare for a no deal,” including legislation on European lawyers practicing in the UK and ratifying the relevant international treaties, “there are some issues that cannot be resolved without an agreement with the EU,” according to the report.

The Law Society said that an agreement targeting lawyers’ freedom to work in the EU should replicate an existing EU law as other models are “unlikely to deliver the comprehensive practice rights” that helped contribute to a £4.4 billion export surplus in legal services in 2017. The sector employed about 330,000 people in 2017, with two-thirds located outside of London, the group said.

The demand for action follows a stern warning by the EU’s courts in Luxembourg that a no-deal Brexit would forbid lawyers from representing clients. Attorneys are being urged to find ways to avoid the fate of Britain’s judges at the institution’s two tribunals, who face being frozen out due to the decision to quit the EU.

Attorneys registered in England and Wales and based in London and Brussels, the EU’s unofficial capital, have found various Brexit workarounds. Many have registered with the Brussels bar and taken on local citizenship to become full Belgian lawyers. Others have registered in Ireland.