As will be appreciated, the jurisdictions immediately concerned, while different, have had a very close relationship for historical and political reasons including within a shared common law heritage. The Law Society and the Bar of Ireland are, therefore, liaising with their Northern Ireland counterparts to maintain the current cross-border arrangements post-Brexit where this is feasible and legally permissible in accordance with EU and national law. However, it remains to be seen what form Brexit will ultimately take so that the relevant arrangements can be finalised.
Secondary legislation has been prepared by my Department under the relevant provisions of the Solicitors' Acts and in conjunction with the Council of the Law Society to ensure that the recognition of UK solicitors on a reciprocal basis in this jurisdiction can continue post-Brexit, including under a no deal scenario. Separately, the Bar of Ireland, whose bilateral recognition framework outside the current EU framework is non-statutory, is making similar arrangements for the reciprocal recognition of UK barristers under the relevant Codes and Rules. Under these efforts, forty-four Northern Ireland Barristers were called to the Irish Bar in March 2019 as part of a reciprocal call. Upwards of 2,772 solicitors from England and Wales have registered in this jurisdiction with the Law Society between January of 2016 and May of this year with applications continuing to be processed.
In addition, the Government on 3 January 2019, welcomed the Bar of Ireland and Law Society initiative "Promoting Ireland as a Leading Centre Globally for International Legal Services" as a further component of the Government’s Brexit Strategy. The joint initiative specifically recognises that there are substantial cross border opportunities for the ‘all island’ market in legal services, particularly in the scenario where separate Brexit arrangements are contemplated for Northern Ireland.
The Government also agreed that this joint sectoral initiative be taken into consideration, as may be appropriate, for support under those measures being taken by the Government as part of its response to Brexit. At the same time it was agreed that, as Minister for Justice and Equality, I would facilitate the establishment of an appropriate Implementation Group to be chaired by a person of appropriate standing with the participation of all key stakeholders including Government Departments and IDA Ireland to support the effective realisation of the initiative. Steps are being taken in active consultation with the Bar Council and the Law Society for the appointment of a Chair and the resourcing and launch of the Implementation Group along these lines. These ongoing actions by the legal professional bodies and the Government are an inherent recognition of the strategic importance of maintaining the smooth conduct of legal services and legal proceedings with Northern Ireland and those other jurisdictions directly affected by Brexit for the continued benefit of both private citizens and enterprise.