Just over three decades after the Law Society of England and Wales first planted its flag in Brussels, the legal body has decided to close its office in the Belgian capital.
The closure was first announced in a LinkedIn post by David Greene, former president of the Law Society of England and Wales.
The decision to close the Brussels office was taken by David McNeill, director of public affairs for the Law Society of England and Wales, who told Law.com International that the decision should not be seen as a farewell to the EU. “The decision is not a signal that we are abandoning work relating to the EU,” he said. “We’re just transferring the rest of the EU work to the London team.”
Created in the early 1990s, the Brussels office of the professional association monitors developments and represents notaries in negotiations with European institutions. It also raises awareness of EU legislation and policies that affect the legal profession and the main areas of activity of lawyers.
Since the UK’s departure from the EU in January 2020 and the end of the Brexit transition period in December 2020, the workload of the Brussels team has decreased while that of the international office team of London exploded.
Under the 2020 EU-UK Trade Agreement, market access for the UK legal profession in EU member countries is coordinated on a bilateral basis. “This means that the international team in London has entered into negotiations with 27 member states and many other bar associations within those states,” McNeill explained in an email to Law.com International.
Given that EU institutions additionally have limited jurisdiction over legal services enshrined in the UK-EU trade deal, the value of a physical presence in Brussels has diminished, McNeill said. . “The much smaller number of significant European issues means that a much smaller team with largely the same level of fixed costs is not financially viable, when the work can be moved to London,” he said. declared.
The Brussels office currently employs four people. A spokesman for the Law Society of England and Wales declined to confirm whether they would be fired, describing it as a confidential matter.
The office is expected to close in November 2022.