11.43 “Brexit relief will be short-lived.” Here is public law guru Charles Brasted of Hogan Lovells:
The Conservatives have made it clear that in the event of an election win, there would be a Queen’s Speech to open a new Parliament before the end of next week, with a Budget in mid-February. They have also published a set of priorities for their first 100 days in office, covering policy issues such as law and order and health.
However, central to the Conservatives’ election manifesto and very much the priority for the new government is Brexit. All Tory candidates signed up to the deal already agreed with the European Union, and we can expect to see 100 per cent backing from the new Tory MPs for the Bill’s passing through Parliament. Even before this takes place, and No. 10 has said this morning that it will be next week, there is likely to be a collective sigh of relief from Brexiteers, those tired of hearing about Brexit and those who have been feeling the brunt of the uncertainty of the last three and a half years of unknowns.
However, that relief will be short-lived. We can now expect Johnson’s withdrawal deal to be passed by 31 January 2020. But it is a deal that leaves many more questions than it provides answers. The shape of the future relationship between the UK and EU past 2020 is an unknown – as, in truth, are the Prime Minister’s ambitions for it. And the timetable is less certain than it might seem.
The deal negotiated with the EU earlier this year provides for a deadline to agree a trade deal between the UK and the EU by the end of December 2020. The prospect of a no-deal Brexit will reassert itself then, leaving the parties little more than six months in practice to agree a deal – or an extension. Without that, the default is a no-deal expiry of the transitional period and therefore resorting to the Northern Ireland protocol of two borders, and WTO terms for the trading relationship with the EU.
Boris Johnson has consistently stated during the election campaign that he would not ask for an extension. The weight of consensus from trade experts is that negotiating a deal of this size within 11 months would be unprecedented. With a sizeable majority, the Prime Minister will need to balance sticking to his promises and his negotiating guns with realism about how quickly a good deal can be done – and how long he has to get one.
The political map this morning also poses new challenges, with a resurgent SNP in Scotland, bolstered by remain sentiment, meaning that Scottish independence post-Brexit will be on the agenda for the coming five years, as the UK grapples with finding a new place in the World.
The net result for business is that political risk will remain heightened in 2020. There has never been a greater need for businesses to engage in informing the policy choices that will shape the UK’s economic and political future, and their own business environment. Politicians will draw on rhetoric and shows of machismo to strengthen their hand in trade negotiations, but the reality could well be an extension and / or a softening of terms, and we expect that government and policymakers will want to listen carefully. Incisive and first-hand political intelligence will be crucial to help navigate the noise and support evidence-based policy making.
11.11 Repairing Britain’s justice system and championing the rule of law must be priorities for the new government, the Law Society thinks. Vice president David Greene says: “As the new government takes office, the justice system of England and Wales is on its knees. Years of under-funding have led to crumbling courts, a crisis in criminal justice and growing numbers of vulnerable people refused legal aid and unable to enforce their rights. Access to justice for all is a cornerstone of the rule of law and our values – the stakes have rarely been higher.”
The Society is calling on the government to:
- Bring back legal aid for early advice from solicitors in housing and family matters so problems can be resolved more quickly and don’t escalate unnecessarily
- Increase the legal aid means tests thresholds so that people can access the justice system to enforce their rights
- Raise criminal legal aid fees and guarantee no future real terms cuts
- Undertake a review of police “released under investigation” powers as soon as possible in the interests of justice and public safety
- Secure a future relationship with the EU that allows lawyers to continue to practise and base themselves in the EU.
11.01 Words of reconciliation from a defeated lawyer, Conservative James Baker.
We probably shouldn’t have got on as well as we did, with ABBA tribute photoshoots, but huge congrats to @angelaeagle
She truly represents the decent Labour Party that many voters are crying out for and I wish her the very best and good luck in #Wallasey
— James Baker (@Jam_Bake) December 13, 2019
10.45 Amanda Tickel, global Brexit lead at Deloitte, has her say on what the election result means for Brexit and UK business:
The uncertainty around whether or not Brexit will actually happen ends today; but there are still big questions as to the form it will take.
The result does however provide greater clarity on the UK’s political outlook and moves the country into a new phase. Businesses must get ready, while wider attention can now turn to the hugely important question of Britain’s future trading relationship with the EU.
Although there’s an understandable feeling of extension exhaustion – with many businesses having already partially implemented restructuring, stockpiling and logistics plans – there’s still thousands who have done virtually nothing. There can be no further delay.
Some changes are known, such as the freedom of movement ending. But many – including access to services, tariff arrangements and data management – are all still on the table. Time must be spent looking at the content of the withdrawal deal and preparing for the new UK-EU trade arrangements, to be ready for this new era of UK business.
The return of a majority government also provides an important opportunity to focus on the post-Brexit challenges the country faces – unlocking business investment, strengthening the building blocks of the economy, improving skills and raising social mobility.
10.30 Here’s Herbert Smith Freehills corporate partner Clive Cunningham giving his perspective on Brexit from the financial services sector perspective:
“Many parts of the financial services sector, and regulators, can probably breathe a sigh of relief. A deal-Brexit with a transitional period would avoid some significant unresolved cross-border regulatory problems. But the relief could be short lived. If the transitional is only to the end of 2020, the race will be on to push this sector up the political agenda so that is covered by any UK/EU trade deal to enable cross-border business to flourish.
“The logic of Brexit suggests UK financial services regulators and policy makers would be free to diverge from EU regulatory standards and deregulate. There have been some indications this might be on the agenda. But regulatory divergence and a future trade deal with the EU are unlikely to be compatible. So any Brexit deregulation bonus could be a pipe dream.”
10.00 Bruce Dear, Eversheds Sutherland’s head of London real estate predicts a surge in investment.
He says: “Real estate markets adore lower-tax and light regulation countries. So most property players will be delighted that Boris Johnson’s Brexit bulldozer has crushed Corbynism under its own Red Wall. Labour has learned that history is a brutal teacher. Big election victories always bring short-term boosts. So expect a surge in investment and house prices. Turning that bounce into a boom will be a much bigger challenge. International property investors will be relieved that Labour’s high-tax and redistributive plans have been rejected by the electorate. But they will not rush into the UK yet. Their time will come next year. They will be hoping for mis-pricing and currency driven opportunities as Prime Minister Johnson rams through his hard and high-speed Brexit.”
“On housing, the Tory manifesto offered only low-key continuity – with Right to Buy staying and Help to Buy extended to 2023. The Conservatives will need to be much more ambitious than this to have any chance of solving the UK’s housing crisis. They now have five years of untrammelled power to deliver a housing policy that works for the whole country. They must work quickly to find radical policies that match the scale of their great opportunity.”
09.00 Here is our round-up of all the lawyers who will enter Parliament for the first time as a result of this election.
In an interesting twist, despite a bad night for the Labour Party overall, none of its MPs who are also qualified lawyers actually lost their seats.
06.00 Reaction is already coming through from lawyers following the momentous events of last night.
David Wyles, a partner in Herbert Smith Freehills’ finance practice, speaks on investors’ reactions now nationalisation is no longer a factor: “It will be interesting to observe how investors respond now that nationalisation risk has dissipated. My expectation is that investors will remain cautious, at least for a while, but that M&A activity for regulated UK assets will resume with a price reset to reflect continuing regulatory risk.”
22.26 Pound bounces on release of exit poll. The markets like certainty. Up 3 cents since so far.
22.00 Conservative win predicted
Conservatives: 368 (+50)
Labour: 191 (-71)
SNP: 55 (+20)
Lib Dems: 13 (+1)
The exit poll is predicting a majority of 86 for Boris Johnson. It looks like the polls were on the money and this may not be a tight one at all.
18.00 We’re going to take a quick break but we’ll be back and with you through the night as the results begin to come in…
17.45 Former Lord Chancellor David Gauke, now standing as an independent candidate, has won plaudits for some amusing videos over the course of this campaign. Here’s his latest effort, which is shorter on the laughs but does demonstrate a good level of support in his constituency.
More evidence of support! pic.twitter.com/6JHKFWBXvh
— David Gauke (@DavidGauke) December 11, 2019
17.15 Ever wondered about all those dodgy claims on campaign leaflets? Here’s the an article about the law behind them.
17.00 Seat to watch: Stirling
This is a really interesting seat. The SNP’s majority of 10,000 was wiped out in the 2017 election and the current Tory incumbent has a majority of just 148. Stirling was strongly anti-Brexit and strongly anti-Scottish independence at the time of the respective referendums, and the seat was Labour-held as recently as 2015. There could be plenty of churn in the vote share and Alyn Smith, the SNP candidate who trained at Clifford Chance, has a good chance of coming out on top when the dust settles.
Result expected: 3-4am
16.05 There are a few candidates standing who describe themselves as lawyers but whose qualifications are, shall we say, buffed up a bit.
For example, Joe Miller (Conservative, Brighton Kemptown) says he is a “trainee barrister”, which is technically accurate, even though is his LinkedIn profile implies he is only a BPTC student. Elsewhere, James Baker (Conservative, Wallasey) describes himself as a “former barrister”. Again, while he did complete the BPTC, his LinkedIn profile suggests he didn’t do pupillage, instead moving straight into a PR, a career he has remained in ever since.
Those who have completed the Bar course are of course entitled to the title of barrister so it’s not exactly a lie, but calling yourself a former barrister perhaps implies many years spent in court rather than a nine-month spell at BPP.
15.45 There are always a few trainees who stand for election and this year is no different. This year Liberal Democrat Alex White takes up the baton. He is a trainee solicitor at Samuels Solicitors in Barnstaple and is fighting the North Devon constituency.
Trainees who have stood in the past include:
- 2010: Jonathan Reynolds, who won for Labour and had to quit his training contract at Addleshaw Goddard
- 2017: Kirsty Finlayson, who stood in East Ham for the Conservatives while a final-seat trainee, coming a distant second. Now qualified, she is contesting Oldham West & Royton this time
- 2017: Màiri McAllan, who fought Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale for the Scottish National Party, finishing second.
14.30 Seat to watch: Cities of London & Westminster
The City has the privilege of having the most lawyers standing for election of any seat. Ex-Charles Russell solicitor Chuka Ummuna, now of the Liberal Democrats, barrister Dirk van Heck of the unrelated Liberal Party, and Labour’s Gordon Nardell QC are all running and there could have been a fourth, but solicitor Tim Lord of the Renew Party pulled out late on. The incumbent (yet another solicitor, ex-Freshfields lawyer Mark Field) is standing down.
Chuka, translated from Streatham, is the big name but the latest polls show the most likely winner is still the Conservative candidate, who is not a lawyer, but the leader of Westminster City Council.
Result expected: 3am
12.45 Following on from 11.45, below, here are the lawyers with the biggest majorities.
|Camberwell & Peckham||Harriet Harman||Lab||Solicitor||1982||37,316|
|Manchester Gorton||Afzal Khan||Lab||Solicitor||2017||31,730|
|Holborn & St Pancras||Sir Keir Starmer QC||Lab||Barrister||2015||30,509|
|Birmingham Ladywood||Shabana Mahmood||Lab||Barrister||2010||28,714|
|Christchurch||Sir Christopher Chope||Con||Barrister||1983, 97||25,171|
|Beaconsfield||Dominic Grieve QC||Ind||Barrister||1997||24,543|
|Esher & Walton||Dominic Raab||Con||Solicitor||2010||23,298|
|Lewisham West & Penge||Ellie Reeves||Lab||Barrister||2017||23,162|
Dominic Grieve, of course, was elected as a Conservative and will have a fight on his hands to win the seat back as an Independent; meanwhile, despite talk of unseating him in Esher, Dominic Raab has a majority of more than 23,000.
12.20 There is a Twitter debate going on as to whether it is a good idea to draw genitalia on your ballot paper. Jo Maugham QC says it’s fine; Clifford Chance tax lawyer Dan Neidle advises caution.
If you draw one for every candidate bar your preferred candidate, your vote will count. True fact.
— Jo Maugham QC (@JolyonMaugham) December 11, 2019
Jolyon assumes that the symbol indicates dislike of a candidate. But I don’t think that’s clear. There is a strong presumption any symbol is a positive indication.
— Dan Neidle (@DanNeidle) December 12, 2019
11.53 It’s not typical for an election day but Sinn Fein solicitor and North Belfast candidate John Finucane took time out from campaigning to go to a childrens’ Christmas concert. Finucane, the son of a solicitor murdered during the troubles, is also Lord Mayor of Belfast.
A welcome break today to visit @HolyCrossBoys & watch their Christmas Concert.
The talent on display was phenomenal, the kids were a credit to their school & their families should all be very proud of them!
Happy Christmas ???????????? pic.twitter.com/8d97w7RdoU
— John Finucane (@johnfinucane) December 12, 2019
Northern Irish politics is of course a process with a lot of baggage. Sinn Fein have increased their vote share in North Belfast in every election since 1992 and are now close to winning what was once a safe Unionist seat. Finucane himself came within 2,081 votes in 2017 but the partisan divide here may still be too strong for him to beat the DUP’s leader in the House of Commons, Nigel Dodds.
11.45: Theresa Villiers (see 11.15, below) is the lawyer with the narrowest majority in the House of Commons, but several other lawyers currently in Parliament are at risk. Here are all those with a majority of under 2,000.
|Chipping Barnet||Theresa Villiers||Con||Barrister||2005||353|
|Northampton North||Michael Ellis||Con||Barrister||2010||807|
|Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland||Simon Clarke||Con||Solicitor||2017||1,020|
|Edinburgh South West||Joanna Cherry QC||SNP||Barrister||2015||1,097|
|South Belfast||Emma Little Pengelly||DUP||Barrister||2017||1,996|
11.15: Seat to watch: Chipping Barnet
This North London seat is held by the Conservatives by a wafer-thin majority. While there has been talk of Dominic Raab, Iain Duncan Smith or even Boris Johnson losing their seats, Cabinet minister Theresa Villiers is at far more risk.
Villiers is a trained barrister but she could be toppled by trade union solicitor Emma Whysall, who is on the soft left wing of the Labour Party. London mayor Sadiq Khan has been hitting the streets for her this morning.
Early start in Chipping Barnet for @EmmaWhysall with @SadiqKhan in Chipping Barnet. The Tory majority is just 353 here – we can kick out a Cabinet Minister and elect a great Labour MP #votelabour pic.twitter.com/RISNtj21Ls
— Dave Prentis (@DavePrentis) December 12, 2019
Expected declaration time: 5.30am
10.45 Baker McKenzie trade expert: This election won’t get Brexit done
Ross Denton, a trade partner at Baker McKenzie, is sceptical of the idea that this election will “get Brexit done”, saying the phrase “has a hollow ring to it.”
He writes: The possible results in the UK General Election can realistically only produce two versions of Brexit: a Conservative majority which will likely lead to the UK exiting the EU on 31st January, and entering into the Implementation Period until 31st December 2020, or a Labour majority or hung Parliament leading to a renegotiation of the Withdrawal Agreement and a confirmatory referendum, all to be achieved within 12 months.
At the moment, there appears to be no chance that the Liberal Democrats would be able to revoke Article 50 as they cannot win a majority.
A hung Parliament will be unlikely to deliver an early Brexit as the Conservatives appear to have no possible allies in a coalition, whereas the Labour Party does appear to have a number of potential allies, notably the SNP (who will demand a second independence referendum as the price of their support) and the Liberal Democrats, who will likely agree not to obstruct the Labour Party in the short term.
It is important to note that under either scenario the UK will still have to negotiate a future trade relationship with the EU-27 during any Implementation Period. While it is unlikely that the UK will be able to negotiate a comprehensive FTA with the EU-27 in 11 months, taking into consideration issues such as rules of origin, it is possible that any Labour renegotiation could deliver a future trade relationship in the same period as it favours a customs union, which would be much more acceptable to the EU-27, and will require less “bespoke” terms to be negotiated.
In either case, the idea that this General Election will “get Brexit done” has a hollow ring to it.
As to general business outlook, most businesses seem to be against Labour plans as they relate to increase in business taxation, and in particular privatization of utilities. So for example, while businesses welcome increase in broadband funding, they are not keen on broadband services being government controlled. However, a number of UK businesses are very interested in how Labour would renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement, since Labour have said that they would aim towards a customs union as opposed to a free trade agreement. UK and EU-27 businesses would much rather agree quickly to a customs union as it reduces uncertainty and trade barriers as compared to negotiating a free trade agreement.
The Conservative Party has not made many “business friendly” proposals in their manifesto, rather focusing on the idea that “getting Brexit done” will unleash a wave of significant trade deals with third countries. There is a degree of scepticism in the business community as to whether this can be delivered.
10.30 We count a grand total of 139 people with legal qualifications standing in today’s election, from Altrincham & Sale West to Wycombe. There are 3,429 candidates standing across the UK which means at least 4 per cent of all candidates are lawyers.
They are spread across 123 constituencies meaning voters in 19 per cent of seats have the choice of at least one lawyer to vote for.
There are 56 Conservative lawyers standing, 35 for Labour, 20 for the Liberal Democrats, five for the Brexit Party, four for the Greens, four for the SNP, and four independents, plus three for the DUP, two for Sinn Fein and one each for Change UK, the English Democrats, the Christian Peoples’ Alliance, Renew, UKIP and the Liberal Party.
And here they all are. Let us know if we’ve missed any.
Seat to watch: Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland
Far from the UK’s main legal hubs, two former Slaughter and May solicitors go head to head. Conservative Simon Clarke defends a majority of 1,020 from Labour’s Lauren Dingsdale. Both were educated at the posh Yarm school, just outside Middlesbrough. This is the sort of Northern seat Labour will be fighting hard to win back, but Dingsdale may face a headwind in a part of the world that backed Brexit.
Expected declaration time: 3-4am
09.30 The polls have tightened in the past few days as Labour has gained ground on the Conservative Party.
Our own poll of the legal profession, conducted in November, showed a big lead for the Lib Dems among solicitors and barristers, but that was before weeks of campaigning, several Andrew Neil grillings, bees gluing themselves to buses, Prime Ministers jumping into fridges, at least three spoofs of Love Actually and far too many vox-pops of white-haired old ladies giving their tuppenceworth to count.
09.00 Welcome to The Lawyer‘s election live blog on a day which looks set to define the UK’s direction for many years to come. We’ll be following today’s events before returning in the evening to keep track of how the lawyers contesting this election fare come the vote count.
You can also follow us on Twitter, and if you’re a lawyer with something to contribute to the blog – commentary, news tip-offs, anecdotes of your time as a late-90s Linklaters trainee with Dominic Raab – do please email us.