13315688_10154275571058923_7054557621524329708_nThe 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This means that in the event of Brexit and the European Communities Act 1972 being repealed, Directives that had been enacted into UK law would remain part of the UK legislative system but Regulations would not (unless they applied by virtue of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 The other 17000 are Regulations and other EU legal instruments, all of which would stop applying to the UK once we repealed the European Communities Act 1972.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 If you would like to see what laws we would lose once we repealed the European Communities Act, please follow the links in the last column of the table.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
Agriculture 2729 157 2572
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
Fisheries 1410 1 1409
Transport 651 77 574
Competition 575 4 571
Taxation 173 28 145
Relations with the rest of the world 3994 4 3990
Energy 361 16 345
Industrial policy and internal market 1364 256 1108
Regional policy 322 2 320
Law relating to undertakings (businesses) 113 31 82
Foreign and security policy 622 1 621
Area of freedom, security and justice 705 36 669
  18031 926 17105  

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.