Listen to this article
Give us your feedback Thank you for your feedback.
What do you think?
The City of London has said the UK government needs to do more to protect Britain’s legal services sector after Brexit if the country is to remain the world’s “jurisdiction of choice”.
TheCityUK, which lobbies for financial and professional services firms, said that Brexit poses a threat to the primacy of English law to govern international cross-border trade and investment.
The lobby group said in a report on Thursday that the government should therefore plan to join, or incorporate into UK law, a host of international agreements governing contracts and various dispute resolution mechanisms “as soon as possible”.
It also called for UK-qualified legal practitioners to be granted “mutual market access” to the EU and a bespoke exit deal relating to legal services, which TheCityUK said form “a crucial part of the wider financial and related professional services ecosystem”.
Keeping the sector competitive is “essential for sustainable economic growth”, the group said.
TheCityUK said legal services generated £31.5bn in revenue in 2016 and now employ 311,000 people across the UK, with two-thirds of people working in the sector based outside London.
The report also stressed the importance of the international reputation of English common law, which it said is used in more than a quarter of the world’s 320 legal jurisdictions.
Last year, 70 per cent of cases in the Admiralty and Commercial Courts involved at least one party based outside of England and Wales.
The UK is the largest market for legal services in Europe, and second globally only to the US — a dominance fuelled by London’s position as a leading financial services centre. Corporate work, banking and capital markers are the biggest practice areas for law firms in Britain.
TheCityUK said it is vital to make sure “international parties understand the ongoing benefits” of using English law and legal services once the UK has left the EU.
“The efficient and cost-effective resolution of disputes is critical to that goal and to the ongoing development of English law. This is at the core of the international attractiveness of the UK.”
The report did not mention specific threats to the UK’s role as a legal hub, but several other countries are increasingly marketing themselves as dispute resolution centres.
Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong have thriving international commercial and arbitration courts, alongside established dispute centres such as New York and Paris.
A new Netherlands Commercial Court is due to open next year. The court will hear cases in English but mainly use Dutch law. France has also said it will set up a special English-language court to handle commercial cases using English law, while Belgium has also set out plans for an English-speaking International Business Court in Brussels.
Leading lawyers and judges hold varying views about what impact Brexit will have on the legal profession.
Last year, Lord Thomas, former head of the judiciary in England and Wales, warned against complacency in assuming that English courts could retain their position as a favoured centre for global commercial disputes.
But Lord Neuberger, former head of the Supreme Court, said in July that the profession was “determined” that Brexit would “in no way undermine London’s status as the world centre for legal services generally and dispute resolution in particular”.