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Jean-Yves Gilg

Editor, Solicitors Journal

Nothing is certain now

Nothing is certain now


Binyamin Ali reflects on the EU referendum vote and what it means for justice in the UK

Binyamin Ali reflects on the EU referendum vote and what it means for justice in the UK

No government will ever have an easy time of labelling a route of action as ludicrous and completely out of hand, when that government has put the option on the table in the first place.

And so, despite the polls forecasting a Remain vote, and despite the financial markets rallying on Thursday 23 June as traders became buoyed by the same false belief, Britain has voted to leave the European Union.

Fearing such an eventuality, 186 lawyers from the UK registered to work in the Republic of Ireland (which is unaffected by the referendum and remains an EU member state) in the first six months of 2016.

In comparison, only 101 solicitors were admitted to practice throughout the whole of 2015, and only 51 had made the move in 2014.

The director general of the Law Society of Ireland, Ken Murphy, feels the reason for the move is quite straightforward.

'The right to argue before EU tribunals such as the Court of Justice of the European Union is only afforded to lawyers qualified in an EU state,' he said.

Put simply, the British solicitor's ability to appeal a case could stop at the UK Supreme Court. If a litigant wants to take their case to any EU court, they may have to instruct a solicitor from an EU state and, given the language and legal similarities with Ireland, Irish solicitors could become an unforeseen beneficiary of the UK's exit.

The overriding prediction before the vote was that the amount of work landing on a solicitor's desk would increase considerably, as businesses and individuals start to untangle themselves from a bloc they no longer belong to or are protected by - but, already, this is starting to look like a short-term gain, which the Bar Council previously forecast when it pointed out that this type of work for specialist solicitors would only be a limited boon.

Meanwhile, as the run-up to the vote reached fever pitch, a justice committee report concluded that access to justice had been damaged by an increase in employment tribunal fees which took effect in July 2013, leading to a near-70 per cent drop in cases brought between October 2013 and June 2015 (see page 9).

'The reality is that employees, small businesses, and others who may have a legitimate claim are being denied the chance to pursue it because of fees which they cannot afford,' said Chantal-Aimee Doerries QC, the chairman of the Bar.

Given the seismic shift and the countless unanswerable questions the country now faces, the report is in real danger of being drowned out by the substantial noise Brexit will create.

What is more, Michael Gove, the justice secretary, has recently spent more time campaigning and fighting for a Leave vote than he has fulfilling his ministerial duties as Lord Chancellor, and his neglect of the law looks set to continue.

With Prime Minister David Cameron resigning his post and Gove forming a central part (alongside Boris Johnson and Chris Grayling) of a de facto government-in-waiting, a new Lord Chancellor is very much on the cards.

As often happens in times of titanic upheavals and considerable unknowns, the only things that seem to make sense any more are oxymorons: consequently, the only certainty we now have is great uncertainty.

Binyamin Ali is guest editor at Solicitors Journal

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