Seminar one - 16th October 2015

The mechanics of secession; secession negotiations; the alternatives to the status quo

The first Brexit seminar addressed the question of how the exit of the United Kingdom from the EU would work in legal terms. The question is regulated both by the provisions contained in the Lisbon Treaty and by domestic constitutional law. But the question then is, exit to what? The meeting heard different answers to that question. They ranged from the view that, by leaving the EU, the United Kingdom would finally be free to turn away from Europe and compete, finally unshackled, on the world market, to the view that, faced with the question of negotiating some sort of association agreement with the EU bloc, the United Kingdom would find life outside the EU difficult.

Read the full report of seminar one.

Seminar two - 23rd October 2015

The free movement of persons

The second All Souls seminar on 'BREXIT' discussed free movement of persons on 23 October 2015.  The focus was on economic, legal, and political perspectives on migration issues.  It was noted that there is significant uncertainty about the policy landscape following BREXIT, and that this makes predictions difficult.  The effects of BREXIT could be zero or very substantial.  Recent legal rulings from the European Court of Justice show more caution on the free movement of persons, and there is also much that is unknown about the legal position after BREXIT.  This may depend on whether there are bilateral negotiations between the UK and other countries.  Finally, it was noted that the politics of migration cannot be ignored.  It was claimed that it is difficult to sustain generous immigration to the UK.  The discussion for the remainder of the seminar touched on whether renegotiation of the Lisbon Treaty would be necessary in the event of a UK exit, challenged whether space was a problem for immigration in the UK, and considered the position of individuals who have acquired rights at the time of BREXIT.  The seminar covered wide-ranging topics and was, as always with the BREXIT seminars, lively and provocative.

Read the full report of seminar two.

Seminar three - 30th October 2015

Free movement of goods and services

The Brexit seminar on free movement of goods and services tackled questions such as will UK businesses have more freedom if the UK leaves the EU; if so, how much more exactly? Will the UK leaving mean that it is easier for the UK to open up to other markets? These questions were approached by way of highlighting the dual nature of EU regulation: the ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ regulation in which the EU engages. Against this background, the seminar also looked at how subsidiarity could be turned into a more legal concept.

Read the full report of seminar three.

Seminar four - 6th November 2015

Agriculture and Fisheries

The seminar on agriculture and fisheries addressed questions about the likely effect of UK secession from the EU on government policy and business practice. The discussion covered the dependency of UK food producers on exports to and labour supply from the EU; the possible alternative options to EU membership (e.g., EEA, EFTA membership); the likely need for direct UK replacements of the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy in negotiation with the UK's economic partners; the continued need for UK producers to abide by stringent WTO rules and regulatory standards; and the growing processes and opportunities for repatriation of policy functions under current EU arrangements. Overall, it was suggested that Brexit would lead to few substantive improvements in agriculture and fisheries policy, but might impose significant losses on UK businesses.

Read the full report of seminar four.

Seminar five - 13th November 2015 

The City of London

The fifth Brexit seminar addressed the question of how the City of London would be affected in the event of the UK leaving the EU. The meeting first heard about the mechanics of an exit, and the options public law provides. It was concluded that if we are lucky, we will end up with a London which looks like Singapore, and if not, we might end up with a City which looks like Zurich. Secondly, the implications of Brexit for banking were discussed and it was argued that although London would not cease to be a financial centre, there would be a great period of uncertainty and it would lose its European importance. Finally, the consequences of the latter, for both the City itself and the country as a whole, were debated. Many of these points focused on the potential costs of a Brexit, but as was noted, it is difficult to discuss this topic without such a bias: there is no way of adequately identifying potential advantages of Brexit.

Read the full report of seminar five.

Seminar six - 20th November 2015

The Scottish and Irish Dimension

The sixth Brexit seminar addressed questions of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland: the future of a union within the union. All of the speakers addressed the importance of the EU to the economies of their nations, and many also discussed the significance of Europe to politics and identity. Questions of a second Scottish independence referendum, the role of EU law in devolved settlements and the Irish peace settlement, the effects of external borders, and policing and judicial cooperation in Britain and Ireland were explored. It was concluded that in the event of a Brexit, Scotland’s independence would be highly probable, thus Britain’s exit from the EU would most likely bring, both in Ireland and Great Britain, the problem of an external frontier.

Read the full report of seminar six.

Seminar seven - 27th November 2015

Post-BREXIT Effects of Pre-BREXIT Measures, and Implications of BREXIT Otherwise than pursuant to Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union

It was noted at the outset that Professor Catherine Redgwell had been invited to speak, along with three earlier invited speakers. This was because in earlier seminars, Dr. John Redwood MP had indicated that BREXIT might occur simply through an Act of Parliament, and not pursuant to Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union. Other commentators have speculated that exit would have to occur via Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union. Professor Redgwell was asked to address this point specifically.

The international legal implications of a unilateral withdrawal by the United Kingdom from the European Union

What is the position under public international law when a treaty provides a mechanism for withdrawal, and a country decides to withdraw in a manner other than that which is provided in the mechanism (assuming there is no consent by other parties to the alternative procedure)?

Read the full report of seminar seven.

Seminar eight - 4th December 2015

Conclusions and Reflections

The seminar on conclusions and reflections took a retrospective view of the overall effect on the UK of secession from the EU. The discussion covered the impact of the EU referendum on the questions of Westminster's internal sovereignty over the different regions of the UK; the mechanics of secession, including possible new bases for the UK's relationship with the EU; ways that the UK could spearhead long-overdue democratic reform from within EU institutions; quantitative assessments of the costs and benefits of secession to the UK as a whole, and UK citizens individually; and the prospects for the current Conservative government under different referendum outcomes. Overall, it was suggested that the referendum debate should be seen as a valuable opportunity for the public to explore some long-standing issues about the UK's place in the modern world.

Read the full report of seminar eight.