Leaving the EU—impact on case law and legislation

Leaving the EU—impact on case law and legislation

If the UK votes to leave the EU what will be the impact on case law and legislation? Tim Eicke QC, a leading public and EU law advocate, looks at some of the issues that might arise domestically and internationally with a decision to leave the Union.

What would an exit from the EU mean for domestic law?

On 28 May 2015, the day after the Queen’s Speech, the government published its Bill No 2 of the current Parliament—namely the ‘European Union Referendum Bill’. This provides the mechanisms for holding a referendum at some point before 31 December 2017 (the exact date is to be appointed by the Secretary of State) on the question ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?’ (cl 1(4)). Of course, both the exact terms of this legislation and, more importantly, the outcome of any referendum held under this Bill are currently uncertain. Nevertheless, it is important to consider what would happen if the referendum produced a majority No vote—what would be the impact on UK domestic law? As a matter of EU law, the impact of any such No vote and the desire to leave the EU thereby expressed are set out in art 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU). This provides that:

  • once the UK has notified its intention to withdraw from the EU, the EU, acting through the Council, ‘shall negotiate and conclude an agreement’ with the UK ‘taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union’ (art 50(2)), and
  • ‘the Treaties shall cease to apply [to the UK] from the date of entry of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification…unless the European Council, in agreement with the [UK], unanimously decides to extend this period’ (art 50(3))

This makes it clear that, as a matter of EU law which is (and will continue to be), at the very least, binding on the UK as a matter of public international

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