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Brexit: The legal effect

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On 23rd June the UK voted to leave the European Union, a decision that will have substantial effect on a number of legal issues which are very relevant to UK businesses even if they do not trade with other EU states. At present it is not easy to predict those effects as they all depend, in large part, on decisions which are yet to be made by UK and EU politicians and bureaucrats as part of the two year disconnection process.

Indeed, at the time of writing, the UK has not yet even started the formal two year period by serving notice to leave the EU.

Until we do leave we will continue to be bound by the rules and regulations of the EU. When we leave we may choose to leave many of them in place, or in order to obtain fee access to trade with the EU, we may be obliged to leave them in place and accept future EU regulations too.

Much of our domestic legislation, particularly in the fields of employment, consumer protection, competition law, data protection and intellectual property protection derives from EU laws and we are unlikely to repeal it immediately but may adjust it in future.

Possibly the worst effect will be the uncertainty. Much has been made of the economic uncertainty and its depressing effect upon business confidence and thus activity but legal uncertainty will be a major factor too. Nobody knows at present just what laws will change and what will remain.

All that can be said with any certainty is that there will be change and businesses will need to be aware of the changes and plan for them. The following are a few examples of things that businesses should be considering:

European Union Trade Marks (formerly CTMs). Will they continue to have effect in the UK? Do you need to apply for a separate UK Trade Mark?

Commercial Contracts. Do any of your contracts make reference to the European Union or its laws? Will they still be in place in two years’ time? Do they need amending?

Employment Law. A great deal of our employment law derives from the EU and the general view is that the UK is likely to keep current employment law so little will change, but it will be essential to watch that space.

Consumer Contracts. Do you do business with consumers from mainland Europe? If so you will need to comply with the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) whether the UK keeps it or not.

Data Protection. Work upon the assumption that GDPR will become part of UK law on 25th May 2018 and is unlikely to be repealed when subsequently the UK leaves the EU.


This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.