Jean-Yves Gilg

Editor, Solicitors Journal

Lawyers and accountants declare Brexit will be bad for business

Lawyers and accountants declare Brexit will be bad for business


Uncertainty surrounding the referendum result will impact professional services industry

Uncertainty surrounding the referendum result will impact professional services industry

The decision for the UK to leave the EU will be bad for business according to more than three-quarters of lawyers and accountants, a debate at Hierons has found.


Delegates at an event chaired by the Belgravia-based law firm overwhelmingly believe that while a British exit could lead to more advisory work in the short term, the long-term effects would lead to more negative consequences.


Attendees at the debate also called for the 'Stronger In' campaign to highlight the UK balance of trade as a major area of exposure.

Europe's appetite for UK services has led to a surplus of around £20bn. A key strength for the British economy, this could become a significant weakness in the event of a Brexit that could take decades to resolve, delegates said.


The Hierons debate focused on the complex issues that professional services organisations could face if the British population vote to exit the EU on 23 June 2016.


Around 70 delegates of lawyers and accountants, representing a broad cross-section of the UK professional services industry, attended to hear speakers David Morley of Allen & Overy, Coutts & Co's Alan Higgins, Sarah Long from Euclid Law, and Ceris Gardner from Maurice Turnor Gardner.


The popular image that the British economy is over-burdened by EU regulation was challenged by delegates.

The World Bank's ease of doing business index found that the UK is the sixth most competitive country in the world, ahead of both the US and Germany. It was argued that EU regulation had not impacted the ability to start a business, resolve insolvency issues, and enforce contracts.


Mark Douglas, a partner at Hierons, said: 'Every single delegate attending faces concerns from their clients about the impact of a British exit from the EU and what it could mean for them.


'At the very least, the levels of uncertainty surrounding this issue are already starting to impact the professional services industry. Our debate highlighted the very serious ramifications that a Brexit could lead to.'


With immigration a major concern for the electorate ahead of the referendum, the Hierons panel was unanimous in its conclusion that firms with an international workforce could be severely impacted by a Brexit.

The existing rights of EU and EEA nationals to permanent residence might be grandfathered, but this is by no means guaranteed.

The surge in EEA and EU nationals applying for permanent residency since the change in law in November 2015 reflects the current atmosphere of uncertainty, the panel stated.


'The debate so far has generated little helpful guidance; we have to think about the future for our own firms,' continued Douglas.

'We have a responsibility to examine the facts and discuss them with our colleagues, clients, and families. This is the most important decision that will be made in a generation - it's crucial that we make the right one.'