As the Referendum result emerged in June many of us greeted the news in horror, believing we had brought upon ourselves economic pain, upheaval and an unprecedented reversal of progress.
Seven months on, is it now possible to recover from our shock and see a much brighter future for our business?
The UK financial sector undoubtedly requires the free movement of capital between EU member countries, and it seems certain when we exit Europe this engine-house of our economy will be hugely affected, and all of us with it. Law firms serving the financial sector will need to bolster their European offices to remain within this market. The rest of us will be affected by the economic jolt.
But whether you like the “new world order” or not, we have now seen some clear green shoots emerging which can give us direction in making our business continuity plans, and which could lessen the shock of leaving a cocoon which has moulded our economy for decades.
Could Quick Deals save the day?
Although perhaps not as straightforward or as ready an alternative to Europe as suggested by pro-Brexit media, Britain has options with Commonwealth countries, and we have further options with our Atlantic neighbours.
Could we benefit from Trump’s “quick deal“? Both Canada and the USA are currently laying the foundations for a new relationship with the UK post-Brexit. Some believe Britain is set for a quick deal with Europe too, so we could see wider connections and trade deals all round.
Whilst the financial world will naturally continue to despair about what little may be left of our favourable and established financial arrangements with EU member countries, law firms can afford to get one step ahead by re-focusing on what is tentatively emerging between Britain and our Atlantic neighbours.
May has made clear in her “12 Priorities” speech that she wishes to lead Britain into forging a new relationship with the EU, but also crucially to make the most of our historically embedded relationship with many around the world.
Is May’s talk an unrealistic bluff to mask a expensive mistake? Although difficult to stomach for some of us, May could be the right leader to negotiate with Trump over an economic deal.
What are the implications for UK law firms?
Even if much less advantageous or comprehensive to the EU, any international trade agreement to take effect post-Brexit is good news for the UK economy and law firms as it will resolve uncertainty, and will settle nerves and the fluctuating value of the UK currency.
Law firms with a focus on local clientele will benefit from the resumption of economic certainty in Britain’s future, with the effect of inflation and a potential recession lessened.
Looking ahead with a positive outlook on what may emerge, law firms with an international focus could benefit from new English speaking clients in Commonwealth countries and North America, who may look at Britain in in a new light and either enter into new trading arrangements or set up local businesses in the UK. There is the potential also to set up a new office base in these countries.
Are EU law specialists left high and dry? We now know that is unlikely as the proposed “Great Repeal Bill” will not repeal all EU law, but will instead convert any EU law to domestic law. EU law enacted as UK statutory law cannot be repealed without a Parliamentary majority vote for each individual Act. Personally I cannot see that happening with the highly embedded EU law we enjoy in relation to data protection, the environment, rights and employment.
With a new commercial world order emerging fast, law firms no longer have the excuse to languish in despair. There will be business continuity, even new opportunities with adjusted geographical focus. We can start thinking about those now, and maybe even get a little excited about future possibilities.
Discussion and disagreement with any of the above welcomed as always.