Legal Implications of Brexit

Legal basis for Brexit

In a UK referendum on EU membership held on 23 June 2016, 51.9% of votes were to leave the EU. The referendum was advisory and its result did not have legal force, but the government intends to respect the outcome. The European Union Referendum Act 2015 enabled the referendum, but did not set out how the result would be implemented.

Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) provides the legal basis for a member state to leave the EU. It requires a member state to notify the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the EU.

On 29 March 2017, the Prime Minister gave the European Council formal notification of the UK’s intention to leave the EU, in the form of a letter to the President of the European Council. This letter triggered Article 50, which:

  • Obliges the EU to negotiate and conclude an agreement with the UK “setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship”
  • Gives two years to conclude that agreement. Any extension requires the unanimous consent of the member states. At the end of the two-year period (plus any agreed extension), withdrawal takes effect even if no agreement is reached

Legal implications of Brexit

Until the UK leaves the EU, the UK remains a member state and remains subject to EU law.

Legal implications of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU include the following:

  • EU Treaties will cease to apply to the UK (Article 50(3), TEU) unless their effect is preserved in domestic law. The UK will remain subject to international treaties.
  • The UK courts will no longer be obliged to give effect to EU law above domestic law, except to the extent provided in the Great Repeal Bill. The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) will no longer have jurisdiction over the UK, although the Great Repeal Bill will give pre-Brexit CJEU case law the same status in UK courts as decisions of the Supreme Court, to provide for continuity in the interpretation of EU-derived law after Brexit. The UK will, however, continue to honour its international commitments and follow international law.
  • UK legislation will be required to reflect the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and give effect to any agreements reached with the EU. The government has confirmed that such legislation will include the Great Repeal Bill and other primary and secondary legislation.
  • The remaining 27 member states will need to amend the EU Treaties to take account of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
  • UK nationals living in other member states will no longer have rights of EU citizens. Withdrawal negotiations are likely to clarify the extent of their rights after Brexit, and the status of EU citizens living in the UK.
  • The UK will no longer be entitled to participate in EU regulatory bodies and agencies unless agreed otherwise.
  • The UK will no longer make contributions to the EU budget or receive funding from the budget unless agreed otherwise.

Back to News