Linklaters managing partner Gideon Moore has warned that it’s not just the UK’s relationship with Europe that will change as a result of the Brexit vote, but Britain’s relationship with the rest of the world, as London’s leading position as a financial, legal and accountancy hub comes under threat from a vote to leave the EU.
Head of one of the biggest law firms in London, Moore (pictured) told Legal Business: ‘The important thing we need to remember is that this vote doesn’t only change our the UK’s relationship with the EU, it changes its relationship with the rest of the world as a lot of our trade deals are through the EU.’
Staff at Linklaters, as is the same across the City, were worried by the outcome but Moore moved to reassure the workforce of their positions. ‘On a human level, we have a number of lawyers and business services people in the UK who will want to know what their position will be,’ he said. ‘I said that as far as we’re concerned you’re an important part of Linklaters so don’t worry about it. Linklaters has always been good at reacting positively to changes and we will continue to be so. The important thing is that we remain close to our clients.’
He also noted that ‘we, as other professional organisations do, have the ability to move people around and have the ability to work in other parts of Europe.’ Moore confirmed a few Linklaters lawyers, mainly in its competition practice, had applied for admission in Ireland, but he did not expect huge numbers to become admitted there.
While admitting that Linklaters is ‘not immune from how these changes will impact on our clients’, Moore said ‘English law is and will continue to be important’.
With UK law firms having spearheaded the globalisation of the legal industry, carrying English law with them across the world, Moore said the impact of a devalued sterling ‘ought not to make any difference’ for firms that pay partners in local currency. However, ‘if you allocate your profits on a sterling basis then you will perversely find that UK partners’ profit will go up if sterling weakens relative to the euro and the dollar.’
For Moore, who headed Linklaters banking group before being appointed global managing partner, ‘the big question now is whether there is recognition that the City is not just good for the UK but for Europe’.
Financial organisations currently take advantage that if you operate in the UK, you can operate in the rest of the EU, which has fueled London’s rise as a financial and legal hub. Moore argues that ‘leaders may come to the conclusion that changing financial services passporting won’t help Europe, as it could result in work being sent to other parts of the globe, so decide it’s best for Europe to allow the City of London to keep operating the same way.’
He concluded: ‘The jury is out. The UK government needs to decide what its priorities are in its negotiations with the EU.’
For more analysis see: ‘The profession reels as shock Brexit vote sends UK crashing out of EU… and into years of uncertainty’ or ‘LB’s Brexit take: City law’s globalisation playbook has just been shredded’
Read Slaughter and May corporate heavyweight Nigel Boardman’s view here.