France bids to scupper rights of establishment

The French government looks set to make an eleventh hour bid to scupper the move to introduce rights of establishment in the European Union.

France wants a unanimous vote, not the usual majority vote, at the council of ministers to pass the draft directive on rights of establishment, which has been approved by the European Parliament.

The draft rule would allow foreign lawyers to practise their own law throughout Europe.

If the move is successful, France would not vote for the directive, which would once more be stalled in the European legislative process.

News of the development emerged at a meeting of the Council of the Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) earlier this month in Brussels.

Law Society international head and CCBE delegate Jonathan Goldsmith said : “It is by no means certain that they can do this, although the French delegation believes that its government can .”

The mutiny comes just as most CCBE delegates had heaved a sigh of relief that the end was in sight and the draft legislation would be enacted after a 20-year debate.

The French also argued that the issue should be considered by the World Trade Organisation at its December meeting, which is expected to dis cuss the legal profession.

They also called for the CCBE to advocate an “indivisible legal profession”, which would effectively exclude foreign legal consultants from practising anywhere in the world without first joining the domestic legal profession, so negating the whole point of the draft directive.

The motion was put down by France and was supported by other countries, including Germany. The UK moved to have the debate moved to a different date, otherwise, said one observer, “all could have been lost.” It has now been moved to the November Plenary session.