Brexit

Click to download a full Brexit chapter taken from the European Union Law (2nd edn) textbook:
Chapter 19 - European Union Law - Brexit and the Union: Past, Present, Future

Overview

This section aims to set out basic issues in Brexit, provide recent updates on the issue, and provide an overview on more specific issues such as the legality of Brexit, the Backstop problem, and the Brexit ‘deal’ problem. It does not, however, aim to provide a comprehensive guide to Brexit. While studying UK and EU Constitutional Law, it is advised that students actively seek resources on Brexit – both from a legal and political perspective – as well as try to keep up to date on this issue. We recommend using accurate external sources such as the BBC, The Economist or The Financial Times.

Undoubtedly, Brexit will result in several changes in UK law. One particular area that has been the worry of many is free movement rights previously held by UK citizens. If you are studying EU Constitutional Law, the main issues considered will revolve around the applicability of EU law, the principles of direct effect, supremacy, etc. There will be a two-year transitional period after March 2019 where there will still be retained EU law in the UK.

Brexit: Basics

In a referendum on 23 June 2016, 51.9% of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. England voted for Leave, by 53.4% to 46.6%. Wales voted for Leave, by 52.5% to 47.5%. Scotland and Northern Ireland both voted for remain, with 62% to 38% for Scotland and 55.8% to 44.2% for Northern Ireland.

As a result of the referendum, the UK Government invoked Article 50 TFEU on 29 March 2017, which then begun the two-year negotiation period that has been the highlight of the UK's political climate. This two-year negotiation period was due to conclude with the UK’s exit from the EU on 29 March 2019, but the deadline has since been extended to 31 October 2019.

Leaving the EU, however, is not as simple as it was expected to be; there are multiple challenging arrangements and decisions to be made, particularly about issues concerning the free movements.

Undoubtedly, Brexit will result in several changes in UK law. One particular area that has been the worry of many is free movement rights previously held by UK citizens. If you are studying EU Constitutional Law, the main issues considered will revolve around the applicability of EU law, the principles of direct effect, supremacy, etc. There will be a two-year transitional period after March 2019 where there will still be retained EU law in the UK.

Brexit: Specific Issues

The Backstop

The Backstop concerns the 310-mile border between Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland which will eventually become the border between the EU and the UK. The main challenge to this issue is finding arrangements that both parties can agree on and, most importantly, arrangements that would work.

In the meantime, however, the UK and the EU have both agreed to put a “backstop” into place. It is a safeguard put in place to make sure that there will not be a hard border as a result of Brexit, no matter what the outcome. The current backstop agreement adopts a ‘single customs territory’ which still keeps the UK in the EU customs union. For now, food products and goods coming into Northern Ireland still follow EU rules and standards, so as to prevent checks on goods which might overburden customs. However, if these products were to be distributed to the rest of the UK, they would be subject to new customs controls.

A majority of the public, as well as MPs, often think that the backstop can lead to the UK remaining in the EU for an indefinite period of time. There have also been numerous questions on Theresa May’s backstop plan. However, as there are no simple and obvious solutions to this issue, the backstop remains in place until further agreements are made.

Brexit: Updates

Recent updates will be shown first, updated as of 5 August 2019.

A new Prime Minister: Following Theresa May’s resignation, Boris Johnson, the new Conservative leader, was made Britain’s new PM. He promises to deliver Brexit during his time as PM. However, many have criticised his strong approach to Brexit as it seems like he is prepared to take a hard Brexit.