Before the High Court decided that Parliament needs to ratify the Article 50 trigger notice, the Financial Times indicated that in its view those who would benefit most from Brexit would be foreign investors seeking to buy assets in England and Wales (perhaps an element there of reassurance to the FT’s foreign owners that they have made a sound investment!).

The other beneficiaries are those who export (at least until the cost of imported raw materials feeds through to inflation) and, of course, commercial lawyers.

So what do lawyers (who after all are in a good position to directly gauge what investment decisions their business clients are in practice taking) actually think? Here are some views extracted from a Law Society Gazette round table discussion that took place over the summer: Litigators tend to be concerned about which aspects of European Law (particularly those protecting consumers) will be “rowed back on” and how court judgements “over here” will be enforceable “over there” and vice versa. The loss of legal professional standing and privilege in EU courts is also a potential worry although there is a view that international arbitrations will become more popular.

Employment laws relating to holiday rights, sick leave and overtime payments may be repealed, as will the likes of TUPE, because these are often viewed by employers as unduly restrictive given that the English courts have had to interpret European law in these areas to date.

Agricultural lawyers believe that farming will benefit from more competitive produce (even if EU subsidies are lost) although the banks may not be as happy to lend to smaller businesses curtailing lending activity within the sector, much as they did after the 2008 crash.

M&A and corporate finance lawyers are concerned about a downturn in activity which could lead to consolidation particularly if there is no longer the perception that the City of London is the best route to the EU.

Divorce lawyers anticipate that there may be fewer high profile overseas individuals seeking divorce settlements regulated in England and Wales, whilst couples with UK property may find them more difficult to sell, and as a consequence there may be fewer divorce proceedings initiated.

Central London residential properties have been subject to “market corrections” which have led to a fall in value of between 20-30% from 2014 values when London properties reached their peak; meanwhile, dollar-rich purchasers are taking the opportunity to buy top of the range properties at prices which have in real terms returned to their immediate post-recession levels.

Prime commercial property throughout the UK is seen as attractive to those overseas high net worth individuals and sovereign wealth funds who are willing to take a long term view of wealth preservation property returns which after all are higher than those in bonds and gilts.

Overall, lawyers seem to agree with the FT’s assessment — particularly if due to the weakening of the pound — that there is greater potential to export legal services or their clients can do likewise in respect of their goods and services. Others have simply asked: isn’t this really all a direct consequence of globalisation?

Two points do emerge in dealing with international businesses: it is vital to get your terms and conditions approved by an experienced international trade contracts lawyer. And, there is no point these days in hiding your lights under bushels. Post Brexit marketing and PR is as essential for the smaller business community as it is for the multinationals.

As Simon Turton who runs Opera Public Relations says: “With the current uncertainties about life after Brexit there has never been a better time to set out your corporate stall and develop a clear branding, marketing and communications strategy.

“Companies large and small need to ensure that when confidence returns to the market that their businesses are on the radar of both current and potential customers — in this country and abroad.

“Those who batten down the proverbial hatches and hope that the sky doesn’t fall in may find that when the dust settles they might not have much of a business left to market.”

Tony Houghton

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