Many industries will be affected by the departure, especially the property market. However, the UK’s exit could affect lawyer’s future work. Changes in legislation could potentially remove areas of work for lawyers. However, the exit could potentially create more work lawyers who need to explain the change to clients and businesses, and therefore prove beneficial in some cases.
Most of Britain’s employment law comes from the European directives. When looking at intellectual property law, current UK and European patent law originates from Switzerland. Pan-European patents are currently granted through the EPO (European Patent Office) in Munich. UK-only patents can be obtained through the UKIPO (UK Intellectual Property Office). In addition to this, brexit could lead to a decrease in the volume of competition-related litigation.
Post-Brexit business and the legal industry will largely depend on the nature of our relationship with the EU, should we continue to have a strong relationship.
Can the law stop Brexit?
Lawyers are currently wondering how the UK’s departure from the European Union might be slowed or stopped. This all depends on whether;
- Article 50 is trigged;
- Whether there is a second national referendum; and
- Potentially a Scottish “block”.
The referendum itself is not legally binding in UK Law and this alone does not trigger the departure from the EU. Having a second referendum is politically wrong and controversial. Before the vote, the second referendum had 22 signatures. It has currently been signed by over 4 million people. It called for a change in the referendum rules requiring a second vote if either side achieved less than 60% on a turnout of less than 75%. If the petition could show that a clear majority of the electorate now wanted to remain, maybe we would see a change in the departure from the EU, but as it currently stands, it would take something of a constitutional crisis to turn the results around.
Nicola Sturgeon, current First Minister of Scotland, suggested that the Scottish parliament could block the passage of legislation necessary for the UK to leave the EU. Sturgeon stated that if a second independence referendum is held, it would be a re-run of the 2014 referendum. Every local authority in Scotland voted to remain, so we can only imagine how the Scottish general public are feeling with the result. Sturgeon stated that: “This would not be a decision about Scotland leaving anywhere, this would be a decision of Scotland staying and therefore the moral argument about us retaining the current terms that we have would be even stronger than in 2014.”
It seems unlikely that the results will be reversed. Lawyers can raise valid arguments as to how the referendum could be reversed, but in this instance, politics has the upper edge over the law.
What is Article 50?
Article 50 is a basic five-step plan to leave the European Union should any member chose to do so. The UK’s exit has to be approved and negotiated with the remaining 27 members of the EU. Once the UK has informed the EU that it is withdrawing under Article 50, the article states that: “the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it”. Although we have officially voted to leave the EU, it may still be some time before the UK can declare themselves as independent. The UK has two years to trigger Article 50, and during those two years the UK can participate in EU business as normal. Furthermore, the UK may not participate in any discussions with the EU about its own withdrawal.
Once Article 50 is triggered, the UK may not withdraw its decision to leave unless by way of unanimous consent from all other member states. Until Article 50 is triggered, the UK will continue to be in a state of limbo, economically and politically.
When will Article 50 be triggered?
Due to the UK public voting to leave, they have set the clock ticking on a two-year timetable to departure. David Cameron said that the decision will be up to his successor, who may not be in place until 9 September 2016. European leaders have urged the UK government to initiate Article 50 sooner rather than later to avoid any future turmoil in the relationship between the UK and EU. The UK could potentially jeopardize close trading relationships and opportunities with the EU, should they wish to delay the withdrawal. This would be disastrous for the UK after the economy has suffered heavily following the vote to leave.
Fundamentally, no one knows when Article 50 will be triggered, but we do know that prolonging its decision could cause unnecessary stress to the UK’s economy and their EU relationships in the future.