WHAT IS THE EUROPEAN UNION?
The European Union is made up of 28 Member States. Founded on November 1 1993, the European Union is a political and economic union generating policies aiming to ensure free movement of goods, people, services and capital within its internal market. Many laws are standardised across all Member States and common policies on trade apply.
HOW ARE EU LAWS DECIDED?
The European Council, the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the European Court of Auditors undertake decision-making through a hybrid governance system made up of these bodies.
WHAT WAS THE RESULT OF THE REFERENDUM?
On 23 June 2016, the UK public voted in favour of leaving the European Union. Voters turned out at a rate of 72.2% and the Leave vote won 51.9% of the vote across the whole of the UK.
WHAT DOES THE RESULT OF THE REFERENDUM MEAN FOR THE UK?
It is highly unlikely that the government would ignore the result given the situation but the government does not have to respect the vote to leave.
The reason for this is that Parliament can vote against the adoption of any legislation linked to withdrawal. However, if the UK government had already notified the EU under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, Parliament would not be able to oppose it.
The UK’s membership of NATO will remain unchanged and so the impact on the armed forces and defence should be minimal.
WHAT IS ARTICLE 50 OF THE LISBON TREATY?
Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty (or the Reform Treaty) is an international agreement which forms the constitutional basis of the European Union. The Treaty entered into force from December 1 2009.
SO WHAT DOES THE RESULT OF THE REFERENDUM MEAN FOR UK LAWS AND REGULATIONS?
Until the UK actually leaves the EU, EU legal requirements must be met. To remove EU obligations from UK law, the government will be required to repeal a number of laws. This includes repealing the European Communities Act (ECA) 1972, any directly applicable EU regulations and secondary legislation implementing EU law.
If the UK government believes that these laws can work without the UK being a member of the European Union, any directly applicable EU regulation or secondary legislation implementing EU law can remain enforceable in the UK.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR IMMIGRATION, MOVEMENT OF PEOPLE AND WORKING RIGHTS OF EU/EEA CITIZENS?
Until Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is invoked, working rights and the movement of people/immigration remains unchanged. In the long term, what happens in practice will depend on the approach taken by the government and the 27 other Member States during the UK’s withdrawal negotiations. During the referendum campaign, the government did not establish any approach or explain what approach it would take if the people voted to leave the European Union.
WHAT IS MOST LIKELY TO HAPPEN?
UK and other European governments will likely favour a solution that protects the immigration rights of people already exercising their free movement rights because of widespread disruption and the administrative burden (at a cost to taxpayers) changes could cause.
It should be noted that during the leave campaign, supporters suggested that in the event of a vote to leave the EU, there would be no change for EU citizens already lawfully resident in the UK.
At time of writing, it is fair to say that there is no consensus on what implications Brexit will have on immigration and immigration from other countries outside of Europe (including Commonwealth citizens).
WHAT ABOUT UK BORDER WITH FRANCE?
It is possible that the Treaty of Le Touquet is re-negotiated. The Treaty of Le Touquet governs the immigration controls for UK/French borders. The Le Touquet Treaty can be broken by France before the UK leaves the EU and in the event that the UK doesn’t leave the EU.
WILL SCOTLAND STAY IN THE EU?
Some countries have relationships with the EU without being EU Member States in their own right. If a second Scottish independence referendum was passed, there is no certainty that Scotland could remain in the EU if the UK triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. This is because Scotland is not a state under international law eligible to sign international treaties. Scotland does not have the power to overturn international relations decided in Whitehall. This is detailed under the Scotland Act 1998.
This means that Scotland cannot be an EU Member State in its own right and nor can Scotland and the EU sign an Association Agreement should they wish to following the results of that referendum.
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) have duty and trade quota free access to the EU market for goods and automatically receive better terms of trade in services and establishment. OCTs do not participate in EU decision-making and so nor do any Treaties apply to them. If Scotland wanted to become an OCT, the definition of EU treaties would have to change.
There is no precedent for a devolved part of an EU Member State becoming independent and undergoing the accession process for being appointed as a new Member State.
The Scotland Act 2016 did not give the Scottish Parliament law-making powers in relation to referendums and so UK consent would be required for another Scottish referendum.
SO WHAT SHOULD WE DO IN SUMMARY?
All we can do is prepare scenarios. UK market confidence may have suffered as a result of an unprecedented decision in Europe. No country has ever left the European Union and this will create uncertainty. However, uncertainty is opportunity. In terms of housing prices, exchange and completion can take between three to six months and the level of impact to the UK property market remains to be seen. Businesses must be continuously proactive in managing risk. A thorough review and impact assessment might be considered by concerned business owners before Article 50 is triggered.