Weekly Legal News: 5-9 November
The SRA and Brexit featured heavily in the UK legal press this week.
Hectic week for the SRA
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) had a busy few days during which it publicly condemned the Government's suggested approach on the issue of mutual recognition of qualifications in future free trade agreements (FTAs), it announced an internal reshuffle which will see its executive director leave in the next few weeks and it postponed the launch of its much anticipated “super-exam”.
This rather hectic period of news and announcements concerning the UK’s legal watchdog started with its response to consultations by the Department for International Trade on how to structure future FTAs.
In these consultations, it is suggested by the Government that:
in the spirit of “maintaining the openness of…service sectors” “FTAs can provide opportunities to agree…provisions such as…recognition of qualifications”.
The SRA was quick to urge the Government to avoid mutual recognition of qualifications, stating that:
“Recognition of professional qualifications should not be based on reciprocity but assessed on a case by case basis, to ensure that consumers’ interests are protected, and any restrictions are targeted and proportionate”.
The regulator followed this response with an announcement on 6 November that its current executive director, Crispin Passmore, will leave at the end of the year. Two days later, on 8 November, the SRA announced that the proposed implementation of its new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) would be delayed by a year to allow law firms and education providers, both of which had called for such a delay, more time to transition to the proposed new system. This “super-exam” as it has been dubbed in the press will now be implemented in 2021 instead of 2020. Passmore himself was a key figure in promoting the regulator’s education reform programmes, including the SQE.
1,500 lawyers call for vote on Brexit deal
The SRA wasn’t the only one to call out the government this week as over 1,500 lawyers, including many prominent barristers as well as, among many, partners at Magic Circle firms Slaughter & May and Linklaters, signed a letter calling on the Government to hold a People’s Vote on whatever comes out of the Brexit negotiations.
The letter urges Prime Minister Theresa May “not to proceed with such a significant constitutional upheaval without further public consultation”. It also adds that “clients and the law are profoundly affected by the terms of the UK’s relationship with Europe. A People’s Vote is the most credible and democratic way to ensure the legitimacy of a decision that will profoundly impact generations to come.”
The Government has repeatedly ruled out any further referendum on Brexit but is facing increasing pressure to change its position, with the lawyers adding their voice to those of, among others, the former head of the UK Civil Service Bob Kerslake, former Transport Minister Jo Johnson, brother of prominent Brexiteer Boris Johnson, and the approximately 700,000 demonstrators who marched in London last month.
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