A deal. At long last.

Any deal was always going to be better than no deal. And there’ll be lots of tall tales (put generously) told about its glories. But so much of this is placeholder…

I clearly haven’t been reading carefully enough, or broadly enough, because I haven’t seen anyone crowing about how wise it was to go down to the wire.

I’m sure it’s out there somewhere. But the fact is, there’s finally a deal. (That’s the UK page. The EU one is here.)

It’s 1240-odd pages plus a couple of extra documents. Better people than me have scanned it already, in far more detail than I want to when I’m still on holiday. (Yesterday was spent in bed, lounging with wife and daughter, on a binge rewatch of the final season of the West Wing. Amazing. I really need to do that more often.)

But a couple of things stand out.

For the areas I’m most interested in professionally – legal services and data protection – a lot remains to be worked out.

Data protection, thank goodness, has a pin stuck in it till 1 May (or 1 July, unless either side objects); we don’t become a third country till then, or until an adequacy decision is made, or unless the UK does something unilaterally stupid. (This is p406 of the Draft Agreement, if you want to check.)

So no need for binding corporate rules or standard contractual clauses. For the moment. Although lots of people will have spent mounds of money and time trying to put them into place. And the implications of Schrems II for law enforcement/intelligence mass collection still make adequacy far from a done deal.

So what about us lawyers? Not such good news. All my friends at the Bar who were getting Irish qualifications are looking sensible. Predictably, perhaps, the UK spin on the section on lawyers is fairly cakeist. As Joshua Rozenberg notes, there’s careful wording suggesting – but not explicitly saying – that all is reasonably well for UK lawyers who advise clients in the EU.

It’s not, unless your advice is limited to UK law: as Nicole Sykes points out, each country has its own rules. And most bar third-country (that’s us) lawyers from advising on their own or EU law unless they’re either EEA (or Swiss) nationals, residents, or often both.

And as for the question of mutual recognition of qualifications: well, that too is kicked into the long grass; the “we’ll get to it, honest” pile.

Sigh. It really is a sign of the fundamental unseriousness of our leaders in this negotiation that they’ve always prioritised form over substance, headlines and politics over policy. I know my experience is in the more loathed parts of the services sector (finance and the law; add in estate agency and I’d have the unholy trinity), but the UK makes a lot of money, earns a lot of tax, and brings in a lot of jobs from overseas services sales. And data protection is an area where going it alone kills jobs, privacy and human rights. Was it really too much to ask that they’d be a priority?

Question asked. Question answered. I guess we have to trust to cooler heads, and more sensible negotiation, in the months and years to come. Feeling good about that?

2 thoughts on “A deal. At long last.

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