Brexit: Legal Implications for the United Kingdom?

On 23rd June 2016, Britain voted to leave the UK. A mass of outcry, demands for a second vote and memes declaring the end of the world went viral. Youngsters declared that their futures were in jeopardy and the economy was to be shredded to tatters. On the other hand, those who voted for Brexit claimed the leave would claim back our border control and the economy would soon stabilize. The above remains to be seen, but what are the legal implications of Brexit?

Immigration Law

Free movement of people is one of the main principles of EU law. Following the leave in 2018, citizens in the UK will no longer have the right to move and reside in the EU unless permanent status has already been granted to them. However it is likely that immigration will form a key part of ‘post Brexit negotiations’ and it is therefore unlikely that steps will be taken immediately to dimish EU nationals free movement rights. With this in mind, it remains unclear to which extent Brexit will effect nationals who have already exercised their free moment rights and negotiations are likely to be advantageous for citizens who have already moved.

Employment Law

The EU has created protection for those in employment in areas such as unlawful discrimination and family dependant rights. Anti Brexit voters have expressed concern for the potential decrease in protection for employees, namely the loss of the above rights. However it is noteworthy that many benefits for employee’s are outside the scope of the EU and are therefore unlikely to change, such as the national minimum wage and the London Living Wage. It is further noted that the UK is considered far above the standard of other member states in the protection it offers for employees being in excess of the minimum EU requirements.

Following Brexit, the UK may seek to negotiate a bespoke relationship with the EU, if this is achieved, the UK will have the right to amend and repeal legislation and the potential changes could be as significant as the state wishes. So far there is no indication of this happening either way, it seems we must wait until negotiations are complete to fully understand the post Brexit implications.   

Competition Law

Interestingly enough, the primary legislation for competition law will still be in force long after the Brexit leave. Articles 101 and 102 will remain the central focus, thus, global cartels will still face investigation by the European Commission, this legislation will continue to apply to post-Brexit agreements. This structure is not entirely different from other countries outside of the EU; US and Asian businesses are also subject to the rules of EU competition law, in so far as the agreement will impact the EU market.

So what will change? Whilst the primary legislation will continue to apply, the commission’s powers will be limited. For example, the commission will no longer have the right to conduct on-site inspections nor can they force the UK to do this themselves. In this sense, it is the way in which competition law will be carried out which will change, rather than the central principles. It has been made clear that EU case law will remain influential. So to answer the question - what will change? As usual, it remains to be seen, however it looks incredibly likely that not much will change at all in the near future.

The writer is a lawyer based in London, with a keen interest in Company, Employment and Immigration law. Previously, he has completed two Masters in Law at the University of Sussex and University College London.  He has recently completed the Bar Professional Training Course and and can be reached at: