The formation of the group dubbed ‘Lawyers for Britain’ follows the formation of ‘Lawyers – In for Britain’, which is purported to have more than 300 senior City lawyers as members. The anti-Brexit group is led by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer competition partner John Davies.
Newly-established Lawyers for Britain’s committee is chaired by Martin Howe QC and includes Wedlake Bell IP partner Clive Thorne, Slaughter and May support lawyer Eric Phillips and CMS senior associate Victoria Hewson. The lawyers on the committee are acting in their own capacity rather than representing their firms.
According to the group, Britain’s exit from the EU is legally straight forward and can be achieved in four steps.
‘We believe that there needs to be a fundamental change in Britain’s relationship with the EU. This cannot be achieved unless we vote to leave the current Treaties, and then build a new and constructive relationship which preserves our trading links but restores our ability to be governed by our own laws,’ the group’s website said.
Thorne told Legal Business the group was in very early development stages and he could not say how many had joined.
‘It’s a recent development, but there is an enormous amount of interest in it, I think lawyers are by inclination Eurosceptic because issues of sovereignty, constitutional law and so on are at the core of legal practice.’
He added: ‘I’ve heard the view expressed “Oh of course lawyers are for the EU” in the same way that one hears platitudes about businesses in favour of the current proposal on the table, and it really hides conflicting attitudes. Every element of economic activity probably has a different view, and this is a good group for expressing those different views.’
Legal Business research conducted with Herbert Smith Freehills last month found that 64% of general counsel wanted the UK to remain in the EU, against 22% supporting Brexit. A 2010 House of Commons report concluded that 50% of the UK’s economically significant laws are derived from EU legislation.
Read more on Brexit in the feature: ‘Up in the air – As Brexit looms, GCs face leap into the unknown.’