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Farrer & Co | UK votes to leave the European Union

It will not have escaped your attention that the United Kingdom held a referendum on the question of whether to remain a member of the European Union or leave.

The referendum was held on 23 June 2016. British citizens voted to leave the EU with a small majority of 52% against and 48% votes to remain, and making history in doing so.

What happens now?

As the first Member State of its size to the leave the EU, the coming weeks and months will undoubtedly result in some significant economic and political turbulence. Amidst such commotion, there will be a job to be done to put into effect the exit.

Negotiations will have to begin to negotiate the UK's exit terms.

At present, the precise mechanism for agreeing the terms of the UK leaving the EU has to be determined. The most likely route is pursuant to Article 50 of Treaty on European Union, which provides that a Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention to leave. Upon doing so, the Union will be required to negotiate and conclude an agreement with the UK, "setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union".

It is also unclear as to who will lead the negotiations. David Cameron confirmed that he will be standing down as Prime Minister by October this year. In his view, the decision to trigger Article 50 will be a decision for the new Prime Minister.

How long will this take?

The EU and the UK have two years to negotiate the withdrawal, failing which the European Treaties will cease to apply two years after the UK's notification to the European Council. Article 50 does permit an extension to this two year period, with unanimous consent of all Member States.

What will it cover?

European law is deeply integrated and embedded into the UK's legal framework. As such, matters to be addressed will have to cover most policy areas. Obvious areas to be addressed are trade relationships and extent of the free movements enjoyed between the UK and member states.

Where matters deriving form EU law are already part of UK law pursuant to a UK Act of Parliament, the UK Government will have to consider these on a case by case basis and identify which laws will be amended or repealed. Unlike the negotiation with the EU, this will not be subject to a timeframe and is likely to be an ongoing process over a number of years.

Please see our previous briefing ("Brexit-Will it happen? What happens if it happens?") on the various areas of policy that are likely to be affected.

Watch this space

Right now, the many questions about the legal consequences of the UK leaving the EU remain unanswered.

At Farrer & Co we have established a dedicated Brexit team from across the firm to provide specialist advice throughout this process. We will update you with significant developments as they reveal themselves.

If you or your contacts have any queries relating to this, please do not hesitate to contact us.

This publication is a general summary of the law. It should not replace legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

© Farrer & Co LLP, June 2016

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