The legal implications of Brexit and the time that it would take to resolve them would damage the UK economy for around 10-20 years. This is not a matter of opinion but a matter of legal fact.
Claire Bradley gives us the facts about how a vote to leave the European Union will impact on our legislative system …….
In order for trade to flourish, there must be legal certainty – society and businesses must know and understand the legal framework in which they are operating. Without this legal certainty, foreign direct investment collapses, and trade grinds to a halt. If the UK left the EU, and EU law ceased applying to the UK, then the UK legal framework would have to come from UK law alone.
Under the EU legislative system, there are two main ways in which EU law applies – through either EU Regulations or Directives. Regulations, once passed at EU level, apply automatically across every EU country, without having to be passed as law at national level. In the UK, it is the European Communities Act which gives effect to EU Regulations. Directives, once passed at EU level, have to be implemented into the UK legal system by Parliament passing an Act of Parliament or some form of delegated legislation. Directives implemented by UK legislation consequently form part of the UK legal system, whereas Regulations do not – they only apply to the UK whilst the European Communities Act remains in force.
This means that in the event of Brexit and the European Communities Act 1972 being repealed, Directives that had been enacted into UK law would remain part of the UK legislative system but Regulations would not (unless they applied by virtue of international law or because they had been implemented into UK law anyway).
Unfortunately, Directives only make up a very small part of the EU law affecting the UK, as the following table demonstrates. In total, there are about 18,000 EU legal instruments, of which only about a thousand are Directives and therefore already part of the UK legal system. The other 17000 are Regulations and other EU legal instruments, all of which would stop applying to the UK once we repealed the European Communities Act 1972. This would be like chucking a hand grenade into the UK legal system. If you would like to see what laws we would lose once we repealed the European Communities Act, please follow the links in the last column of the table.
|Area of law||Total number of EU laws on that topic||Number of directives that are part of UK law||Approximate number of pieces of legislation that would be missing from the UK legal system if the UK pulled out the EU altogether|
|Economic and monetary policy/free movement of capital (these laws substantially affect the City)||527||9||518|
|Environment, consumers and health protection||1965||145||1820|
|Science, information, education and culture||424||9||415|
|Free movement of goods/customs union||1093||7||1086|
|Free movement of workers/employment law/social policy||646||74||572|
|Freedom to set up a business in another EU country/freedom to provide services||357||69||288|
|Relations with the rest of the world||3994||4||3990|
|Industrial policy and internal market||1364||256||1108|
|Law relating to undertakings (businesses)||113||31||82|
|Foreign and security policy||622||1||621|
|Area of freedom, security and justice||705||36||669|
If you would like to know why the UK Parliament couldn’t just pass an Act of Parliament stating that all these Regulations would carry on applying, and why it would take between 10-20 years to resolve these legal issues please click here.