Brexit in focus: what could Britain leaving the EU mean for your professional services business?

It may take ten years or more for the impact of Brexit to be fully understood.

This article first appeared in Lawyer Monthly, and is reproduced with kind permission. We wrote it with other members of the Professional Practices Alliance.

Nothing is going to change overnight, while the UK embarks on the process of withdrawal from the EU. Regulating a new trading relationship could well take longer than the two-year period set by the Lisbon Treaty. Some say it could take more than 10 years.

In a debate we hosted in April this year, we heard that there is a £20 billion trade surplus in services with the EU. The legal sector is an important part of that, so will definitely be affected by some of the unravelling that is going to follow this result. You can read more about our debate below.

As one of our speakers said at that debate, we have now started “the biggest de-merger in history”.

Recruitment and training could get a lot more complicated

The first thing law firms should do is reassure their staff that no residency or work permits are likely to be cancelled overnight.

The UK - London in particular - attracts a large number of people from overseas. English law is the commercial law of choice worldwide, and many international firms have built up successful businesses as a result. Many firms capitalise on the ease with which lawyers and support staff can move from location to location within their networks.

New approaches to immigration may have a significant impact, but we hope that the UK government will protect this flexibility for the legal sector in its new policies.

Uncertainties about free movement are going to keep immigration lawyers busy for a while.

Other than changing specific references, such as to the EU Merger Regulation, it may be that commercial contracts will not need major surgery. But uncertainties are bound to arise. How will Brexit affect conflict of law rules, enforcement of judgments, applicability of WTO and other global trading agreements? Could Brexit trigger early termination, frustration of contract or force majeure clauses? These and other areas will take time and debate to work through.

Cutting 'red tape' is not easy to deliver

We all need to keep track of the changes and advise our clients accordingly. Cutting red tape for the benefit of business and individuals is an admirable aspiration.

But do we have a good track record in new or replacement legislation cutting home-grown 'red tape'?

All the contributors are part of the Professional Practices Alliance, an informal collaboration between four legal and accounting firms that advise professional services firms: CM Murray LLPMaurice Turnor Gardner LLPHierons LLP and Buzzacott LLP.

  • Clare Murray is a specialist in employment and partnership law, advising multi-national employers, professional services firms, senior executives and partners.

  • Corinne Staves advises on partnership and LLP law.

  • Richard Hierons advises owner managed businesses on corporate and commercial law.

  • Claire Watkins provides accounting, tax and financial advice to professional practices.

Marshall BylerBrexit