Following the UK’s exit from the EU on 31 January 2020, the SRA has published guidance intended to explain the position of European lawyers following the end of the implementation period on 31 December 2020.
The UK Government has published a number of statutory instruments relating to the status of EU lawyers which came into effect at the end of the implementation period on 31 December 2020 and which mean that the arrangements in relation to former RELs have now come to an end (except in relation to a defined group of Swiss lawyers) and changes have been made to the requirements for recognising professional qualifications.
As a result, from 1 January 2021:
- The REL regime comes to an end and all RELs (other than Swiss lawyers) no longer have their associated practice rights in the UK (subject to a very limited exception);
- The SRA will no longer accept any further applications to become an REL or to be admitted as a solicitor under the integration route (other than from Swiss lawyers);
- An EU lawyer who is not a qualified as a solicitor in England and Wales is no longer able to be a sole practitioner in a recognised sole practice or a freelancer practising under regulation 10 of the SRA Authorisation of Individuals Regulations (subject to a very limited exception);
- An EU lawyer who is not a qualified lawyer of England and Wales is no longer able to be a COLP;
- Exempt European Lawyers, other than those registered as Scottish or Northern Irish lawyers, are no longer able to be owners or managers of a law firm in England and Wales (unless it is an ABS);
- The fly in/fly out practice rights of EU lawyers previously granted under the Lawyers Services Directive 77/249/EEC, have come to an end. Firms are advised to consider their arrangements and take the necessary steps to make sure that they comply with the new regime.
- The arrangements for recognising professional qualifications (previously granted under the Recognition of Qualifications Directive 2005/36/EC) have changed.
So far as Swiss lawyers are concerned, the Government has made separate arrangements allowing them to continue to be RELs and to continue to apply to become RELs for the first time for four years after the end of the implementation period (that is until January 2024) and continue to have the right to seek admission under the integration route until January 2024.