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The impact of Brexit on UK law
19th July 2016
Now the dust is beginning to settle on Britain’s decision to exit the European Union, we take a look at the potential impact the decision could have on UK law.
Lawyers, law firms and legal recruitment agencies in London and across the rest of Britain have all been keeping a close eye on the latest developments.
The UK’s exit from the EU does impact on lawyers in two major ways. The first will see changes in legislation, with the removal of some laws meaning lawyers will have to discuss the changes with clients and businesses. The second major impact will be an indirect impact with the consequences of Brexit on UK businesses.
We spoke to some experts to tell us how Brexit has affected British law so far and how it could impact legislation in the future.
Andrew Holroyd, Chairman at QualitySolicitors Jackson Canter, has revealed that Brexit has already had an impact on conveyancing.
He said, “Brexit could impact UK legislation in so many different ways it’s hard to make long-term predictions. However, in the two weeks since the result of the referendum was announced we’ve seen a raft of conveyancing transactions fall through as the buyer decides to take stock of the situation and pull out. There is always an element of wastage in conveyancing, but we’ve seen a marked downturn in completions in the past fortnight, which indicates a lack of confidence in the commercial property market. If this continued over the longer term, it would likely impact the property development market which may lead to new legislation being introduced designed to incentivise private construction.”
This means that many in-house lawyers in conveyancing jobs have already seen their work affected.
According to an article about the implications of Brexit on employment law, the Law Society says, “Much of UK statutory employment law has its origins in EU legislation. The implementation of EU legislation into domestic law means that employment law obligations and protections will not automatically fall away upon the UK's eventual withdrawal from the EU.”
The Law Society also notes that in theory we could see law protections like parental leave, minimum holiday allowances and rights in the event of transfers of undertakings removed from the UK’s legislation.
The Law Society also reveals that should the UK agree to become part of the European Economic Area after a full withdrawal from the EU, then we would still have to abide by EU rules. Norway and Switzerland, who are not part of the EU, must accept the free movement of people to be a part of the EU’s internal markets.
However, the likes of Chile and South Korea, who both have trade agreements with the EU, are not subject to these free movement rules.
The Law Society's president Jonathan Smithers, said, “The UK will also need to resolve issues relating to its trading relationship with other parts of the world, specifically in terms of international trade agreements.”
Although the UK is unable to sign trade deals whilst it is still part of the EU, a number of informal discussions will be taking place in the build up to the Brexit date, which is believed to be earmarked for late 2018 or early 2019.
According to an article on the BBC, Australia has already offered the UK a Brexit free trade deal. The piece also reveals that economists think it is vital for the UK to look for other major trade deals, especially with the likes of China and the USA.
Brexit means that while it may be difficult to open trade deals with some EU member countries, it could be beneficial to trade with other parts of the world.
Brexit has also been a cause for concern amongst EU nationals living and working in the UK.
Andrew Holroyd, from QualitySolicitors Jackson Canter, said, “We’ve also had a number of concerned EU nationals contacting us asking what Brexit means in terms of their ability to continue to live and work in the UK.”
Now that Theresa May has been named as the Prime Minister, the legal professionals at QualitySolicitors Jackson Canter believe the new leader will need to trigger Article 50 before anyone is in a position to know what this is likely to mean for EU nationals in the UK, and indeed UK nationals living in other EU member states.
Andrew Holroyd also feels that legal aid could be targeted in terms of cuts.
He said, “Legal Aid could be an easy target for government cuts if there is a lack of liquidity in government departments. At Jackson Canter, we believe Legal Aid and access to legal services for all should be protected at all costs, but it is difficult to not be concerned that Legal Aid could become a target for government savings if Brexit triggers very real spending challenges for the government.”
Other legal rights
In another piece about the legal sector by the Law Society, Catherine Dixon, who is the Chief Executive of the society, said there will be no change to people’s legal rights or obligations.
She also stressed how important it is for the UK to continue single market access and that solicitors are still able to practice across the EU.
She added, “We are also urging that government retains our financial services passport, mutual recognition and enforcement of judgments and extradition arrangements, including the European Arrest Warrant, which safeguards UK citizens and helps to ensure that the interests of justice are served.”
The European Convention of Human Rights law and the European Court of Human Rights is not affected by Brexit and the law of England and Wales will still retain its international commercial appeal, according to Jonathan Smithers, from the Law Society.
He added, “It’s also important to say that the law of England and Wales retains its international commercial appeal and remains an attractive and stable jurisdiction with a high-quality legal profession, internationally respected courts, and the best law firms in the world that have attracted clients from across the globe for many years.”
Image Credit: Ian Muttoo, Anneka.