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NEWS: UK decides to ‘Leave’ the EU

News and ViewsNewsNEWS: UK decides to ‘Leave’ the EU

On Thursday 23 June the British public voted on whether the UK should leave or remain within the European Union. With 51.9% voting to leave, and Cameron’s impending departure what does this all mean for the UK?

While the UK currently remains a member of the EU, European laws (and UK laws that are based on them) continue to apply in the UK until we reach a deal with the remaining EU states. It is too soon to say what the full consequences will be, and what a post ‘Brexit’ relationship with the EDetail of Silky National Flag of Great Britain Flag Drapery - Shallow Depth of FieldU will be, but these laws affect a vast range of people, from homeowners to small businesses, farmers to environmental bodies. They will take a lot of time to unpick, and a lot of negotiating to agree which common standards will continue to apply. We do not expect the next Prime Minister to invoke the “article 50” process, which starts the final 2 year countdown to ‘Brexit’, until those negotiations are well advanced.

It is natural for anyone to be concerned and to have questions about what the future may hold. At BDB we will be providing regular updates on what it will mean for you and your business. In the meantime our Brexit team have prepared the below updates on a range of issues to outline the immediate impact and potential consequences. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with your usual BDB contact, our Brexit Team or email brexit@bdb-law.co.uk, if you have any queries.

International Owners of UK Property

‘The instability arising from the UK’s decision to Brexit, including a weakened sterling, is likely to dent the UK’s reputation as a safe haven in an otherwise uncertain global market and prompt foreign individuals who own UK residential property to sell and look to invest elsewhere. For others, a weakened currency may well offer an opportunity to enter the London property market, which for many, until now, had become too expensive.

Non Domiciled Individuals

With the Government having to deal with the aftermath of Brexit and David Cameron’s decision to resign as Prime Minster, it is unlikely that we can expect to see the much delayed consultation documents on the new ‘non dom’ rules any time soon, despite hopes that they would be published following the referendum and before Parliament rises for its summer recess. This is likely to spell further uncertainty for UK resident and non-UK domiciled individuals (so called ‘non doms’) in the run up to the new rules coming into force on 6 April 2017 and means that the window for planning before then will be even shorter than had been anticipated.’

Matthew Braithwaite, Partner, Private Wealth


‘The impact on employment law from the UK leaving the EU is likely to depend on the type of trade agreement that we reach with it. EU leaders have made it clear that access to the European free trade area will require the UK to agree to similar regulations, including those in relation to employment, that are currently in place and, on this basis the ability to make wholesale changes may be limited. Those changes that are made could include the possible introduction of a cap on discrimination compensation and the repeal of the Agency Workers Regulations. Organisations will also need to consider the economic  impact of Brexit on their businesses and analyse whether they will need to refocus and restructure in light of the uncertainty facing the UK economy.’

Nicholas Le Riche, Partner, Employment


‘Following the Brexit vote, there will be uncertainty of status for long term UK resident citizens of EU countries who have relied upon exercising treaty rights of free movement in the UK even if it is likely that a substantive right of free movement will be preserved as part of new trade agreements negotiated with the EU. As UK law stands, those who have been exercising rights for five years have the opportunity to obtain a confirmation of their right to permanent residence in the UK under the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006. This is similar to the grant of indefinite leave to remain given to citizens of countries outside the EEA who complete five years residence in UK in an immigration category which can lead to settlement. Possession of such confirmation is a precursor to being able to apply for British citizenship, normally after completing a further 12 months residence in the UK. Long term residents may wish to take steps to ensure they obtain certification of UK permanent residence and, thereafter to consider taking up British nationality (most countries allowing dual citizenship).

Whilst fear of immigration may well have played a part in the Brexit vote, what will be needed going forward are immigration laws that allow economically advantageous immigration, enable the UK to remain an international hub for business and that allow the employment of key workers required to service sectors such as the NHS and agriculture. These laws then must be effectively policed and enforced.’

Alastair Collett, Partner, Private Wealth

Mergers and Acquisition

‘There has been recent volatility since the announcement of the referendum.

Nevertheless, the UK’s merger and acquisition (M&A) activity has remained strong through-out the campaign, although from here on in Brexit places M&A activity, inward investment and fundraising in the UK in a precarious position. Investment banks are bracing themselves for a slow-down, leaving aside the long-term impact of the result. We await to see if buyers will put the brakes on M&A, hopefully not!’

Nick McCarthy, Partner, Corporate and Commercial

Inward Investment

‘With one bound he was free”.  Well, for the UK in Europe, not quite.  Following the result of the referendum there will now be a prolonged period of uncertainty about the future of the UK’s trading relationship with Europe.  In the short term little is expected to change.  Ultimately though, the UK will do a trade deal with the EU. In the meantime, foreign investors may well take the view that the UK will be striving to make itself more business friendly and that, as far as the relationship with the EU is concerned, whatever the final outcome, the range of variables is just not enough to put off investing in a vibrant UK with what must turn out to be reasonably favourable access to Europe.’

Paul Voller, Partner, Corporate and Commercial 

Data Protection

‘The UK has voted to leave the EU. So where does this leave Data Protection in the UK?  Data in the UK will continue to be regulated by the current Data Protection Legislation until such laws are repealed or amended. But what of the new General Data Protection Regulation: does Brexit mean that we can avoid the impact of further changes?  The simple answer is no, except for those organisations that have no contact whatsoever with Europe. Whilst the legal basis for data protection rules may change, the ultimate effect for any organisation doing business in Europe will be largely the same and it would be prudent for such businesses to abide by the GDPR.’

Penny Bygrave, Senior Associate, Corporate and Commercial

Intellectual Property

‘The UK being outside the EU will have implications for pan-European IP rights, in particular the European Union Trade Mark (EUTM) and the Registered Community Design (RCD) regimes. There are provisions in the respective regulations dealing with expansion of the EU but there are no provisions dealing with any member state leaving the EU. As these regimes are “unitary” in nature, once a country is no longer a member, EUTMs and RCDs will not have legal effect there. It is anticipated that current EUTM and RCD owners will be given an option to split their registrations into separate EU and UK rights.

Currently patents are not pan-European but there are advanced plans for an imminent introduction of an EU Unitary Patent system and a Unified Patent Court. These plans are now likely to be affected and delayed to factor in the UK’s exit.

Only EU lawyers are authorised to act as representatives before the EU Registry, once out of the EU, UK lawyers will no longer be able to do so and there is likely to be a surge in continental IP firms promoting their services to UK clients.’

Dennis Lee, Partner, Corporate and Commercial

Policy and Reputation

‘The nightmare scenario has arrived for those charged with unpicking the relationship between the UK and the EU. No-one has a clear idea of what the new relationship looks like and how to achieve it. There could be some very public disagreements and divisions between the personalities of Vote Leave and those of Leave. EU about what the UK outside the EU looks like. There has been, for instance, no agreement between #Brexit campaigners about whether we should even remain in the Single Market. EU Member States themselves now have some difficult decisions to make about what sort of relationship they want with the UK and there is far from unanimous agreement.

Following “his decision” to resign, the PM still has to get an immediate hand on the tiller and show that there is a plan for what happens next. Businesses and the markets need reassurances quickly, otherwise there is a real danger of things unravelling quickly both economically and politically.

The PM’s resignation ‎means there is some breathing space in which the candidates can map out their visions. Then Article 50 can be triggered and the formal processes begin.’

Stuart Thomson, Head of Public Affairs

Infrastructure planning

‘Developers will be well aware that they have to comply with many European-derived requirements, such as EIA, air quality limits, habitats protection and State Aid. Many of these will be extremely difficult to unpick, and some reflect international treaty obligations, so are likely to remain, even when the UK finally leaves.

Sorting this out could take years, and so developers should continue for now on the basis that the requirements remain in place. But they should pause before assuming that new European requirements will automatically be introduced – for instance, the 2014 changes to the EIA Directive were due to be introduced by 2017. This may no longer happen, after all.

Our market-leading government and infrastructure team has been advising developers and regulators on the effects of EU law for decades, and have prepared analyses of which obligations stem from Europe, and which are purely domestic, which will help serve as a chart for those navigating the new, unfamiliar waters.’

Angus Walker, Partner, Government and Infrastructure

Farming Subsidies

‘The agricultural industry will now face the removal of the Common Agricultural Policy and all its subsidies, compliance regime and environmental legislation. Farmers will need to have their concerns addressed quickly and urgent fiscal and political decisions are now needed. Without any support UK agriculture will face a deep recession and bankruptcy on a large scale.

Farmers have long criticised that whilst Brussels produced the framework legislation, UK legislators ‘gold-plated these with over-detailed rules resulting in a strict compliance regime and unnecessary red tape. It would be a false hope to think that Brexit will now lead to a bonfire of regulations and to a regulatory ‘light touch’ in respect of farm subsidy compliance and environmental control. It is likely that many aspects of the subsidy and compliance regime will be rolled over.

Our agriculture team have been advising on the various agricultural subsidy and income support schemes for over 30 years, we track the proposals and the draft legislation implementing these schemes. Brexit policy in this area will be subjected to our team’s close scrutiny and we will be advising the agricultural industry on such proposals.’

Christopher Findley, Partner, Private Wealth 

Get in touch with our team

If you have any concerns, or wish to discuss any matter which you think may be affected please do get in touch with the team >

Our Brexit or Flexit update provides a brief guide to the potential outcome of ‘leave’ or ‘remain’ vote, to catch up on all the commentary provided by the team download your copy >Brexit brochure image

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