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SRA confirms changes to foreign solicitor qualification criteria in event of a no-deal Brexit

The SRA have confirmed changes to rules, which would take effect in the event of a no-deal Brexit, regarding how non-UK solicitors will qualify in England and Wales.

Under current legislation, EU lawyers are able to apply for exemptions on a topic by topic basis from the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS), which all foreign-qualified lawyers must sit to qualify in England and Wales. No such exemptions are currently offered to lawyers from beyond the EU.

Changes to the current arrangements would be required in the event of a no-deal Brexit, as under World Trade Organisation rules it would no longer be possible to offer preferential treatment to EU lawyers. In future all foreign lawyers will be able to apply for exemptions, but these would only be offered on the basis that they cover the entirety of either or both parts of the QLTS.

Whether exemptions are granted will continue to depend upon a case-by-case review of that lawyer’s qualifications and experience. EU-based lawyers wishing to apply under the current exemptions regime can still do so, providing their application is received before the date any no deal Brexit becomes effective.

Whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, arrangements for solicitors from Scotland and Northern Ireland will continue unchanged. The SRA consulted on these potential changes in December 2018 with feedback from stakeholders and the profession broadly in favour of the proposed approach. The Government has now made legislative changes to the EU (Recognition of Professional Qualifications) Regulations which will come into effect in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said: “Whatever the outcome of the negotiations it is important that we are prepared to make sure the transition to any new arrangements takes place as seamlessly as possible, with as little disruption as possible for the profession or the public who need their services.”