Brexit would trigger exodus of UK lawyers to re-qualify in Ireland, say experts

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It’d be the only way for British solicitors and barristers to do anything EU law-related at a decent level


A vote to leave the EU would see barristers hopping over in droves to Ireland and other member states to re-qualify and keep a UK foot in the European Court of Justice door.

This was one of the most interesting predictions delivered at an anti-Brexit event held by pro-EU lawyers on Friday — and has sparked widespread chatter in legal London.

Indeed, those in the know have told Legal Cheek that some lawyers have already bagged Irish qualifications as a form of insurance in case Brexit happens.

One key problem that would be triggered by a vote to leave would be the continuing influence of UK lawyers on the EU institutions, or lack of. The 1950s Court of Justice was heavily inquisitorial in nature, but UK lawyers and judges have shaped its modern focus on precedent and oral tradition.

And, as pointed out at the anti-Brexit event on Friday by Freshfields partner John Davies, who is chairman of ‘Lawyers In For Britain’, there may well be an influx of barristers rushing overseas to re-qualify into other European jurisdictions, to make sure this continues to be the case.

Speaking to Legal Cheek after the event — which saw a report released detailing the “numerous benefits” of EU membership — Monckton Chambers barrister Anneli Howard explained that UK barristers, and UK judges for that matter, would not be able to take part in post-Brexit Court of Justice proceedings, leaving our potential influence on European law and precedent to fall by the wayside. This is because EU law states:

Only a lawyer authorised to practise before a court of a Member State or of another State which is a party to the Agreement on the European Economic Area may represent or assist a party before the Court [of Justice].

To side step this rule, there may well be a UK lawyer retraining exodus to Ireland — and other member state countries — to give stubborn Europhile barristers the chance to participate in Court of Justice case law.

But just how easy will it be for these EU-loving advocates to retrain?

It’s hard to say. Aside from the obvious expense and detriment to personal and family life that comes with moving abroad, Professor Steve Peers, speaking to Legal Cheek, threw another spanner in the works. He said:

After the Brexit date, it will remain to be seen whether UK lawyers will still be covered by the EU rules on this issue and therefore able to obtain Irish qualifications.

Peers explained that a barrister’s ability to re-qualify overseas depends on:

[W]hether the UK was still covered by this part of free movement law, although failing that it is possible that Ireland would take a liberal approach to allowing UK lawyers to qualify there as a matter of domestic law.

With that in mind, it looks likely a Brexit will lead to a swarm of barristers crossing the Channel to retrain. When we spoke to Sir Alan Dashwood QC, Henderson Chambers barrister, he even went as far as to say:

Certainly some practitioners will re-qualify — indeed I believe some have done so already, by way of insurance. That may work for individuals with established reputations. I don’t believe there would be much prospect for a young person starting at the bar in the UK to build up an EU practice post-withdrawal.

Nearly 300 lawyers are signatories to Lawyers In For Britain’s 66-page report, including Professor Paul Craig who, alongside Gráinne de Búrca, penned the law student bible EU Law, Text, Cases and Materials. They are opposed by the similarly-named ‘Lawyers for Britain’ pro-Brexit group, which is led by 8 New Square barrister Martin Howe QC.


Not Amused

“A vote to leave the EU would see barristers hopping over in droves to Ireland and other member states to re-qualify and keep a UK foot in the European Court of Justice door.”

I wish both of them the very best.



I don’t know about solicitors, but Ireland has a massive oversupply of barristers already. We don’t have the chambers system, and so basically anyone can do the BPTC equivalent and simply rock up and call themselves a barrister.



You’re missing the point, by qualifying in Ireland they wont want to practise there, merely be qualified so they can practise in the European courts






I presume E&W or NI lawyers would still be able to qualify in Ireland if the UK did vote to leave the EU, as the arrangement between the Inns of Court in London and the King’s Inns in Dublin, predates the EU, and Irish independence.

See for example, Serjeant Sullivan KC, was called to the Degree of the Utter Bar by Middle Temple, when he defended Sir Roger Casement.



Should have been given a Silk gown for that trial, or at least been granted permission to sit at the Seniors’ bench, in recognition of his status as the last Serjeant. Petty of the then LC.


Dublin BL

As far as I am aware, Kings Inns also have provision for the recognition and admission of qualified lawyers from outside the EU. So even in a post-Brexit world, qualified barristers from the UK (that has hypothetically voted to leave the EU) would be eligible to apply for admission to the Bar of Ireland. Considering the History between Kings Inns and the Inns of Court in London, more than likely Kings Inns would look favourably upon their application.

Failing that barristers from England and Wales could avail of the arrangement between the Inns of Court in London and the Inn of Court in Northern Ireland and the similar arrangement between the Inns of Court of Northern Ireland and Kings Inns. I.e. Get called to the Bar in NI and then pending a certificate of Good Standing from the Benchers of the Inns of Court of NI, get called to the Bar in the Republic of Ireland, thereby being eligible to appear before the Court of Justice.

This is of course based on the premise that Brexit will not affect the arrangement between the Inns of Court of NI and Kings Inns, which I highly doubt it will as that may have implications for dual citizenship provisions contained within Good Friday Agreement. Just goes to show how messy this entire Brexit (UKEXIT) situation actually is.



How do the dual citizenship provisions of the GFA come into it? Surely the professions can regulate themselves as they see fit, subject to the potential for a JR.



I get the impression Dublin BL was talking about the broader problems Brexit poses for NI and GFA…?


Dublin BL

Yes I absolutely was talking about the broader implications that there will be for NI Lawyers. But be under no illusion, Dual Citizenship provisions within the GFA have come into direct interface with the Legal Profession in Northern Ireland / Ireland before. By way of example the refusal of certain members of the Bar Library to take silk on the basis that an oath of allegiance to The Queen offended rights Dual Citizenship guaranteed by the GFA.

If there is a way for an Irish Lawyer to dilute something down to the constitutional question, trust me, he/she will find it. Justifiably so. (Dependant on your political persuasion of course)



Well, the provisions of the GFA will be unaffected post-Brexit. The GFA is a free-standing international treaty between the UK and Ireland – it will still do its thing whatever happens.


GFA depends on EU funding for a number of North-South bodies established pursuant to the GFA. Then again, a not insurmountable problem if UK did vote to leave EU.

More tricky is the question of whether and/or how a border would operate between the 26 counties of Ireland and the 6 counties of Northern Ireland. Even though the Common Travel Area predates the EU, hard to see it continuing if UK votes for exit.

Then again, NI is already constitutionally anomalous, within the UK itself, so could NI be treated as a special case by the EU if indeed the UK does vote for Brexit?

Dublin BL

Correct. The provisions of the GFA will be largely unaffected. But it certainly will have a role to play in matters like this. As it has done in the past.

Not Amused

I see that people are still taking this nonsense seriously. Have they considered the following?

– If the 5 President Plan is implemented, the EU (beginning with the Eurozone) will harmonise rates of corporation tax
– Ireland is an EU corporate tax haven
– If the EU harmonise corparation tax then Ireland won’t have an economy

So Irish-exit is probably more sensible (on pure economic terms) than Brexit.

Or do the Irish imagine that tourism and wexford cheddar will sustain them in this glorious new utopia?



Fastest growing economy in the world last quarter – it’s almost a badge of honour to see little Englanders like yourself so bitter about it


Not Amused

You are, I think wilfully, misunderstanding my point. There is nothing wrong with being a corporate tax haven. It is a perfectly rational way to run an economy in a globalised world.

The fact remains, however, that the EU is committed to removing the freedom of member states to run their economies in this way. So all successful corporate tax havens will need to be outside the EU. That means Ireland will (whether it likes it or not) face a very stark choice. I am sorry for Ireland, I consider the EU’s plan to be a stupid one that will artificially benefit Germany and France.

The EU is as insular and protectionist as a state can get. It limits global free trade. It artificially raises prices (talk to an African farmer). It blocks and delays trade deals (7 years negotiation with Canada ffs). Ultimately it protects uncompetitive economies – which is why it will fail.

People need to start actually looking at what the EU is and what it does. At the moment its defenders have more of the trappings of a cult.


Dublin BL

Nothing that Not Amused has said above makes any sense on either an economic or political basis.

There is no, nor has there ever been, a convincing economic argument that would support an Irish exit from the European Union. The prospect of any viable political candidate suggesting an Irish exit in the post election climate that we are in now is frankly laughable. The reason it is laughable is not because every Mick over here in Ireland lacks the economic vision or foresight of Not Amused, it is because there is no political consensus that would support such a move.

For the avoidance of any doubt, the favourable tax arrangements for corporations in Ireland is but one of many reasons why it is seen as one of the most favourable places in the world to invest.

Furthermore, while Not Amused was clearly being deliberately condescending to the Irish, Wexford Cheddar is not even that nice. He should try Kilmeaden.



You could call it the fillet of cheddar.


Lord Lyle

Kilmeaden. Aye I’ll try a bit O tha. Ha ye tried Kilishandra butter or Kerr’s pinks tatties? Och n by the bye you’ll ha tae attend a compulsory Gaelige course in Éire to qualify, but it’s no hard and ye will ne be examinified on it.

N.Ireland is a doddle, but it’s a wee bit dangerous still for Sassenachs.

Sorry but ye gobbed bagged again KK 🙂



Sorry mate, but that’s bollocks. You fill in a form, pays your fee and waits a while and you’re in.


@ Lord lyle

why do you write like an idiot all the time? It is not funny or impressive!


Dublin BL

What Lord Lyle said regarding a compulsory course in the Irish Language is INCORRECT. As an applicant from a foreign jurisdiction you would not have to attend a non-examination Irish class. That requirement has been done away with. Still considering his poor attempt at mocking the language above (which seems a bit more like Ulster Scots) I’d recommend that he attend one anyway!


Edward Bernays

So we shouldn’t leave the EU because lawyers who want to practise EU law will flee? What kind of dumb proposition is this for staying in the EU? So the wider implications for opting in or out depends on how it will affect a small group of people?

For once in your life make a decision that is not based upon selfish interests, make one based upon the good of the country as a whole.

Tired of this weak, self-centred mindset that people have been indoctrinated with!



Edward Bernays- this is a legal forum, why wouldn’t it discuss the implications for lawyers if the uk were to leave the eu? Seems pretty topical.

Anonymous- with reference to ‘anyone can rock up and call themselves a barrister’ in the north of Ireland at least entrance to the bar is dependant on sitting an exam which around 700 people sit yearly and coming in the top 25 and completing a full time course and paying minimum £10,000 to do so?


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