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Brexit legal battle looms over single market access

5th December 2016


Law firms and legal recruitment agencies in London and elsewhere will have been preparing themselves for dealing with a huge amount of Brexit-related work since the morning after the referendum of 23 June, but recent developments indicate that a battle could be looming over the UK’s membership of the single market.

A number of prominent lawyers have recently pointed out that it may not be the case that the UK automatically leaves the European Economic Area once Brexit is finally made official.

Professor George Yarrow, who is chairman of the Regulatory Policy Institute, told the BBC, “There is no provision in the European Economic Area Agreement for UK membership to lapse if the UK withdraws from the EU.”

Professor Yarrow went on to say that Article 127 of the EEA agreement would need to be triggered before this were to happen.

Government’s legal headaches mount up


According to reports, the question of whether UK membership of the EEA is technically due to the country being a member of the European Union is at the heart of what could become a bitter legal dispute between pro and anti-single market campaigners.

Supporters of Brexit will be concerned that withdrawal negotiations could be further delayed by the new development, which may lead to a lengthy legal wrangle in the European Court of Justice.

November’s High Court ruling that Article 50 cannot be triggered without Parliament’s approval already risks disrupting the governments timetable for beginning negotiations in the first half of 2017.

The situation took a further turn on 1 December, when Brexit Secretary David Davis appeared to suggest it is conceivable that Britain will make future payments to the EU, if this were to guarantee the ‘best possible access’ to the European market.

Whatever the results of the various legal disputes surrounding Brexit and its consequences, one fact remains unarguable: many of the UK’s top legal minds will be kept busy for months, and quite possibly years, dealing with the technicalities of the EU referendum.

Image Credit: threephin.