As the UK continues to establish its own trade policy, it is vital that legal services, which provide more than £60 billion per year to the UK’s economy, are paid sufficient attention in trade negotiations. UK legal expertise is high demand around the world and the service of international clients is a key source of revenue for many UK lawyers. Lawyers rely on the possibility of short-term visits to foreign jurisdictions for the purposes of providing legal advice (sometimes described as fly-in fly-out, or FIFO) as well as temporary secondment/establishment rights in a jurisdiction. While there are many lucrative, fast-growing markets in Asia, the ability for lawyers to continue to provide advice in these ways in the EU is an issue of some importance. The Lawyer’s Establishment Directive ceased to apply to UK lawyers at the end of the transition period. Today UK lawyers seeking to provide legal advice in the EU must deal with 27 separate regulatory regimes.
Fortunately, the principle of home title practice was recognised in the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), finalized at the end of last year. It should be pointed out that the inclusion of any material on legal services in a Free Trade Agreement is in itself a achievement since historically they have been ignored in international negotiations, with the Comprehensive Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the agreement in principle between the UK and Australia other notable exceptions. Under the home title principle, parties to the TCA agree to permit practice by lawyers of the other party under their home jurisdiction professional qualification with regards to advice on home country and public international law, as well as arbitration, conciliation and mediation. On their own these are already sizable areas of the legal services market for most UK lawyers serving clients in the EU.
After four years of turbulent discussions and 1,400 pages of complex provisions, the EU and the UK (the “Parties”) signed the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) on 24 December 2020. Now that the much-feared risk of a no-deal Brexit seems to have been avoided, it could be high time to start digging into the details of the TCA and critically assess whether it is an effective and all-encompassing regulation or just a “platform” created in view of future negotiations and developments in the EU/UK (trading) relationships.
The deal between the UK and the EU has not put an end to their talks. As negotiations will continue on a number of fronts, UK-EU parliamentary cooperation will be essential to ensure that citizens’ interests are taken into account. The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) sets out that the European Parliament and the UK Parliament may establish a Parliamentary Partnership Assembly (PPA) that would provide a forum for exchanges of views. It is still unclear whether and when a PPA will be created. As the TCA suggests, its establishment appears to be voluntary and at the discretion of the legislatures from both sides. So far, the parliamentary dimension within the overarching governance of the TCA has remained at an embryonic stage, leaving many questions unanswered. Yet the PPA would not be the only channel for parliamentary cooperation and other formats could develop.
Eva Pander Maat
The Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), concluded on Christmas Eve 2020 between the EU and the UK, is a unique trade agreement in that its objective is divergence, instead of convergence. It represents the culmination, but by no means the end of four years of Brexit turmoil. To what extent such turmoil will continue to dominate EU-UK relations will partly depend on the extent to which Parties use the TCA as a floor or a ceiling.
To help comprehend the 1,400 page Agreement, five experts provided their guidance to the TCA in the Webinar ‘The UK & the EU Relationship: What Next?’ on January 27, 2021. This event was the first in a promising cooperation between the Jean Monnet Chair in EU Law, City, University of London and the Senior European Experts Group (SEE). The event was moderated by Sir Alan Dashwood, barrister and Professor Emeritus of European Law at University of Cambridge and Professor Emeritus of Law at City, University of London. This blog post revisits key points raised during the Webinar and summarizes its conclusions. Drawing on the expertise and experience of the experts, the blog post discusses five different aspects of the TCA: respectively, the legal aspects, trade and internal market regulation, agriculture and fisheries, the EU perspective and the political dimension.