Legal professional bodies in the UK and Belgium have entered an agreement to support continued mutual cooperation in the sector post-Brexit.

The memorandum of understanding is the first document to set out a framework for continued cooperation in the legal sector post-Brexit. It represents a mutual commitment to protecting and developing the rule of law in the signatories' respective jurisdictions and continuing to work together to support this work on an international basis.

While formal negotiations on future trade and services relationships with the EU cannot take place until after exit day, this does not prevent constructive dialogue taking place between bars in the meantime.

The Brussels-based bars have kept up communication with UK lawyers registered with them about the potential impact of Brexit, and have also lobbied their Government to ensure that their no-deal legislation gives time for UK lawyers to take any necessary steps to secure their position.

The law societies of Scotland, England & Wales and Northern Ireland, the Bar Councils of England & Wales and Northern Ireland and the Faculty of Advocates all signed on the UK side, along with five of their Belgian counterparts: the Brussels bar (Dutch-speaking section), the Brussels bar (French-speaking section), the Dutch-speaking Federal bar and the French and German-speaking Federal bars.

John Mulholland, President of the Law Society of Scotland, signed the memorandum of understanding on behalf of the Law Society of Scotland at the Opening of the Legal Year in London yesterday. 

He said: "This agreement builds on the existing spirit of collaboration between the bars in the UK and Belgium. I hope that this will form the basis of even greater cooperation in the future and could inspire further agreements to be reached with colleagues across Europe."

Belgium-based Scottish solicitor Siobhan Kahmann, international representative on the Society’s Council, added: "In the uncertainty after the referendum, it was a comfort for me and my UK colleagues to learn from our local bars that our contribution to the legal community here was valued. I am delighted that this is reflected in the memorandum of understanding our bars have signed today."