What are we trying to do

Help those we regulate understand how the Government’s plans for EU exit may impact on them. This includes the regulation of EU lawyers practising in England and Wales and UK lawyers practising in the EU.

Who needs to know

All those we regulate to make sure they remain compliant. This includes European lawyers working in the UK (such as RELs or EELs) on a permanent or on a temporary basis, or UK solicitors working in the EU, or UK firms with offices in the EU.

What's going on

The UK has now left the EU on the basis of the Withdrawal Agreement as implemented in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 and ceases to be a member state.

However, we are now in a transitional period running until 31 December 2020 during which time the UK will generally continue to abide by EU rules despite no longer being a member. During this transition period the status quo will remain. This includes the mutual recognition of professional qualifications and regime for registered European lawyers.

The Government will now begin negotiations for a new post-Brexit UK-EU relationship. The legislation states that any agreement must be in place by the end of the year. In a situation where no new arrangements are put in place in relation to practice rights (termed a non-negotiated outcome), the previous legislation prepared for a no deal scenario will apply, and people might find our previous "no deal" guidance helpful as a result.

Status of RELs

The Government has previously published three statutory instruments relating to the status of EU lawyers to implement changes in a no-deal scenario. However, it is likely that changes will be made to these arrangements if it appears that a non-negotiated outcome is likely. We will continue to work closely with government and will update our guidance to reflect developments.

Applying for REL status

We can still accept new REL applications until 31 December 2020.

Read our response to the Government's Technical Notice to find out more about what will happen if there is no deal.

Registration renewals

Ahead of registration renewal in October, and with the UK having left the EU, the REL regime will come to an end on 31 December 2020. Individuals can continue to practice as RELs until this date, providing they have renewed their registration by 20 November.

On 1 January 2021, we will make sure that all RELs who have renewed their registration automatically become registered foreign lawyers (RFLs). This is unless they have told us that they do not want to be regulated by us anymore.

We are aware that a very small number of RELs have indicated a wish to practice under their home title from 1 January 2021. If so, they will still need to renew their registration and, before applying, will need to tell us through this form that they do not wish to become an RFL before they renew.

If they do this, we will not charge the REL, or their employer if they are opted into a bulk renewal, for the two months they are registered for the practising year 2020/21 (November and December). The REL or their employer will then need to wait two days before applying to renew their registration. 

On 1 January 2021 we will make sure that all RELs who have renewed their registration, and not opted out of being regulated by us, will automatically become an RFL.

Will the SRA be communicating directly with European regulators and bars on the position of England and Wales Solicitors in Europe from 1 January 2021?

No. The UK EU negotiations are being undertaken by Government directly. These negotiations will ultimately decide the position of England and Wales Solicitors in Europe from 1 January 2021. The SRA’s role in that process is limited to advising the Ministry of Justice and other government departments, so we do not think it would be appropriate for us to communicate directly with other regulators or bars. However, we are aware through our joint Brexit work that the Law Society have been undertaking a significant amount of negotiation and lobbying with EU regulators, and you may wish to discuss any queries or concerns with them, to see whether they are able to address these.

Working in the EU

In the event of a no deal scenario at the end of 2020 the UK Government's arrangements will have no effect on solicitors qualified in England and Wales practising in the EU. The practice rights of these solicitors will be determined by the regulatory framework for lawyers from outside the EU in the particular jurisdiction that they practice.

Solicitors in this situation should find out their position by contacting the relevant regulatory authority and/or the local bar association or law society and take the steps recommended by them.

They may also want to consider the potential to re-qualify in the legal profession of that jurisdiction under the Establishment Directive, or under the Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications Directive.

We have written to solicitors who we know are practising in the EU.

The Law Society has provided further guidance for solicitors working in the EU.

Keeping information safe - ICO

The Information Commissioner's Office has produced guidance on preparing for and keeping information safe in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Its website contains information on the impacts and necessary preparations for exchanging data after a no deal exit, and an interactive tool has been developed to help you keep personal data safe.

Financial Sanctions Targets

The Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation has produced guidance about the implications for financial sanctions during the transition period.

During the transition period, the UK will continue to be bound by EU sanctions. UN and EU sanctions will continue to be implemented in the UK during this time.

Want to know more

You can contact our Professional Ethics Helpline for further advice.

We will also use this page to provide further news and updates as we get them.

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