Europe Minister seeks evidence from lawyers on EU position

11 Jun, 2013

The future of the UK’s relationship with Europe was fleshed out today by David Lidington MP, Minister of State for Europe, at a Law Society seminar.


Addressing an audience of solicitors including general counsel from some of the largest companies in the country and senior lawyers from City law firms, the Minister conveyed the Government’s present thinking on the UK’s relationship with the EU and heard the views of leading solicitors.


The event, which took place at the Law Society’s Chancery Lane headquarters, was organised to highlight the role the legal services sector plays in the UK economy and the contribution legal professionals can make to the discussion over the future of the UK’s relationship with the EU.


The meeting follows the Prime Minister’s announcement in January that he favoured a referendum on the UK’s membership with the EU. The Law Society is currently preparing responses to the second round of the Balance of Competencies Review, which looks at the interaction between the UK and EU’s legal systems.


David Lidington said: “The proliferation of English law firms across the EU reflects the pre-eminence of English Law as the international law of commerce. The Government’s Balance of Competences review is seeking evidence from the widest possible range of experts and interested groups to inform the debate on the future of Europe. I welcome the Law Society’s interest in contributing to the review.”


Desmond Hudson (pictured), Chief Executive of the Law Society urged the Minister to engage with the legal profession in an evidence-based discussion about the value of European Union membership for the services sector and the UK economy more widely.


“Our members are key to driving economic development through provision of legal advice, enabling trade deals, problem solving and dispute resolution. Three quarters of the Top 50 UK law firms now have at least one office elsewhere in the EU.


“The evidence is clear: the legal services sector in the UK is a global success story. Law firms turn over almost £30 billion every year, make a £2.8 billion contribution to the balance of trade and employ several hundred thousand people. UK legal services make up over a quarter of the entire EU legal services market.


“But legal services do not exist in a vacuum. Success is premised on free trade and open markets. We know that law firms and companies base themselves in the UK to take advantage of our access to the EU, and value the ability to work and trade across borders.”


The Prime Minister announced on 23 January that the Conservative Party, if elected at the 2015 general election would legislate for a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU.


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