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Brexit: Legal Aspect

The future of the U.K. after leaving the European Union and the legal aspects of this process were at the agenda of the 7th St. Petersburg International Legal Forum.

The debate was facilitated by Michael Swainston, QC, Barrister at Brick Court Chambers and brought together Maria Bonon, Deputy Chairman of the Access to Rights Committee at Le Conseil National des Barreaux (France); Aline Doussin, Partner at Squire Patten Boggs, Gary Campkin, Director of Policy and Strategy at TheCityUK; Alexander Smirnov, Head of Legal Department at Moscow Exchange MICEX-RTS; Clemens Trauttenberg, Partner at Wolf Theissand; and Christian Schmies, Partner at Hengeler Mueller.

“On the 23th of June 2016, 51.9 percent of U.K. citizens voted to leave the EU. While many believe it was a triumph of democracy, others are discontent with the outcome and prone it was yet another populism-induced catastrophe. Whatever you think of it, Brexit will have deep and far-reaching consequences. Whether or not it will be a benefit for Great Britain is an open question”, facilitator Michael Swainston stated.

Maria Bonon, Deputy Chairman of the Access to Rights Committee at Le Conseil National des Barreaux (France) shared with the panelists her insight into the Brexit talks. “The talks [between the U.K. and Europe] will include two phases. Phase 1 aims at ensuring legal security of European Union citizens and anticipating every condition of the U.K. leaving the EU in order to guarantee this security. Phase 2 will define the follow-up ‘cohabitation’ between the Great Britain and the EU”, the expert went on to say. She also stressed that the Council of Europe placed the protection of EU citizens’ rights on top of the talks agenda.

Trade and finance opportunities of the U.K. after leaving the EU were evaluated by Christian Schmies, Partner at Hengeler Mueller. “Measures to ensure continuity of operations are being discussed, yet planning proves difficult while the transition period structure is still unclear. However, we have to plan something even amidst uncertainty. The U.K. risks to become a third country in terms of financial regulation, it might lose its financial passporting rights, along with the access to EU and EEC markets, and require special licensing in future”, the panelist stated. According to Christian Schmies, a number of issues have been raised regarding businesses entering the U.K. Many financial institutes currently seek to maintain their role in Great Britain. Trade-related issues were also commented by Aline Doussin, Partner at Squire Patten Boggs. “Trade relations with the U.K. are bound to change, therefore we need to provide some regulations for this new trade. When the Britain acceded to the EU, it gave up a number of its competencies and renounced to the right to conclude independent agreements, just like other countries, the expert said.

Gary Campkin, Director of Policy and Strategy at TheCityUK, compared Brexit with a divorce. “It is definitely similar to a divorce, in a way it involves splitting up property and money. Next step is a shift to new relationships, and if we look at Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, it clearly states that the exit process should take into account those future relationships. We will see what it brings forward at the earliest stages of the talks”, the panelist commented. He further stated that the U.K., for the first time within several decades, will be able carry out an independent trade investment policy for its own benefit.

Clemens Trauttenberg, Partner at Wolf Theissand, offered his legislation-related remarks on the subject. “Once Britain leaves the EU, European law will no longer be applicable in the U.K., and English law will take over. A While Paper has recently been published, providing for the regulation of legal issues while the Brexit is being implemented. Elections in Britain are coming soon, and a law regulating financial and legal aspects is already in the pipeline. After the exit, those issues will be dealt with by British government alone, and it is up to the Parliament to adopt whichever format of the law they find appropriate. Hopefully everything will work smoothly.

Wrapping up the debate, Michael Swainston expressed his confidence that the talks between the U.K. and the EU will be closely followed worldwide.