Bar of Ireland: Opportunities and challenges from Brexit

Paul McGarry SC, chair of the Bar Council of Ireland
Paul McGarry SC, chair of the Bar Council of Ireland

There are opportunities and challenges for the Irish legal profession in the wake of Brexit, Paul McGarry SC, chair of the Bar Council of Ireland, told a Seanad committee yesterday.

Mr McGarry presented the special select committee on Brexit with an outline of potential implications for civil justice issues from hard and soft Brexit scenarios.

The Bar’s submission outlines opportunities for Ireland in legal services, but also the challenges in civil law given the deep economic and personal ties between Ireland and the UK.

Given that EU Treaties, regulations and directives determine civil justice in so many diverse areas, the departure of the UK from the EU will have wide raging implications for Ireland, Mr McGarry said.

He detailed areas of concern under the following headings: Civil jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgements; Financial services and insurance; and Insolvency.

Mr McGarry added: “There are many other areas where citizens’ rights could be affected, such as the right to provide or receive legal services, immigration law, employment law, consumer law, patents, intellectual property, competition law and tax law.”

In the absence of agreement between the EU and the UK in civil justice matters, businesses and individuals will have to fall back on pre-existing treaties and long-standing rules of public and private international law, which “is likely to give rise to increased cost and uncertainty in the conduct of commerce between the EU and the UK”.

Brexit will also provide opportunities for increased trade in legal services in Ireland, specifically from the international sector. The UK is the second largest market for legal services globally, accounting for some 10 per cent of global legal service fee revenue and 20 per cent of European legal service fee revenue. When it departs the EU, Ireland will be the only English-speaking common law jurisdiction and this will help attract financial and other service industries into Ireland, providing an opportunity to increase the market for legal services in Ireland.

Mr McGarry said: “The potential rewards to the Irish economy are very significant. If Ireland becomes a place in which international litigation and arbitration is routinely carried out, it inevitably enhances the reputation of Ireland as a place to do business, particularly for the type of financial service providers that are now considering a move from London.”

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