It is crucial that the UK Government continues to engage with the Scottish and other devolved governments during the Brexit negotiations with the European Union, and vital to ensure continuing stability in legal and justice measures, according to the Law Society of Scotland.

The Society was responding to yesterday's speech by Prime Minister Theresa May, in which she set out the Government's strategy of fully withdrawing from the EU while seeking a comprehensive free trade agreement.

She undertook to maintain workers' rights, and to seek an early agreement on the rights of EU mationals iin the UK and of UK nationals elsewhere in the EU, while introducing controls on the numbers coming to Britain from the EU. 

Critics have questioned the likelihood of such an agreement on trade being reached when the UK is turning its back on the single market. Last month the Scottish Government published a paper setting out possible means by which Scotland could remain part of the single market even if the rest of the UK does not (click here for report), though few in government elsewhere have offered support for such a plan.

Commenting on the Prime Minister’s speech, the President of the Society, Eilidh Wiseman said: “The UK’s exit from the EU has many significant aspects including economic, financial, legal, social, and cultural, which will affect every person living in the British Isles. With this in mind, the Prime Minister’s statement provides some welcome detail on a number of issues which the country will need to consider as article 50 is triggered and the negotiations start on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

“It is crucial that the UK Government continues to engage with the devolved administrations and civic society to ensure their and our interests and priorities are seriously considered. We are grateful to the Secretary of State for Scotland who has met with us and our member law firms, listening to our concerns and those of businesses more generally. We are keen to maintain that engagement with both the UK and Scottish governments over the coming months.

“As the negotiations move forward, it is vital we ensure stability in the law and maintain, so far as possible, close collaboration in freedom, security and justice measures. That is why we strongly welcome the Prime Minister’s intention to continue to work with the EU on cross border crime and law enforcement issues. There also needs to be an agreed path for recognising and enforcing citizens’ rights including the rights of parties with pending cases before the Court of Justice of the EU.”