Brexit Breakdown

Ioanna Hadjiyianni and Amanda Spalding, PhD Candidates, Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College London

On the 23th of June 2016 the UK public voted to leave the European Union. Neither Whitehall nor the Leave campaign appear to have been prepared for such a result and the many legal and political issues it raises. In this post we will attempt to give an overview of some of the most significant legal questions raised by Brexit and how they might be resolved.

  1. What happens now?

The current state of affairs is that the New Settlement for the United Kingdom within the European Union negotiated by Cameron and reached at the European Council in February 2016 will not apply and no longer exists.[1] The overwhelming question now is whether the result of the EU referendum has legally binding effect and would thus trigger the withdrawal procedure under EU law. The only acceptable procedure for withdrawal from the EU is provided for in Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union (TEU) as the UK cannot unilaterally withdraw by suspending the European Communities Act 1972 consistently with international law and EU law requirements.[2] 

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Voting in European Union referendums: A Neighbour’s Experience

Graham Butler

PhD Fellow, Centre for Comparative and European Constitutional Studies, Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.


Referendums on European Union (EU)-related issues have occurred in a number of Member States since the foundation of the project, and may be considered highly salient in value in the eyes of voters. While political events such as referendums on EU questions have not featured prominently for the United Kingdom in the recent past, for the first time in decades, before the end of 2017, the United Kingdom will vote on a referendum with options of either remaining in the EU, or choosing to voluntarily leave. This second referendum on the EU, after the previous ballot in 1975, can be traced in numerous political variables. The evolving nature of the EU from the initial internal market, to being a more encompassing actor covering a wider breath of public policies, linked with the rise of popular Euroscepticism, has led to increased scenarios where referendums are availed of in many Member States. This short post looks at some of the experiences that the closest geographical and most closely related neighbouring state to the United Kingdom, has in holding referendums on EU questions. From a legal and political perspective, Ireland offers many lessons and learning outcomes on what the United Kingdom will face, given the Irish familiarity and understanding of referendums on questions of EU nature.

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Effectiveness of the European Parliament as a Legislative Body: A Critical Analysis

Giulia Gentile, LLM in European Law, King’s College London 

Since its creation, the European Parliament (EUP) has been the subject of considerable debate. Originally established in 1951 as “Assembly”, this body was instituted as the legislator of the European Coal and Steel Community. However, before the entry into force of the Maastricht Treaty, the EUP could barely be compared to a legislative body, since its policy-making powers were extremely bounded.[1] This Treaty, indeed, assigned to the EUP enhanced legislative powers, further strengthened through the following European Treaties.[2] Nevertheless, although the EUP’s decision-making powers have significantly increased in the last twenty years, a deeper analysis shows that the EUP’s influence as a legislative body still have significant constraints. This paper will first analyse and assess the power of the EUP as a legislator in the ordinary procedure (OP) and its “deviation”, the informal bargaining (IB), the current main legislative processes in the EU.[3] Subsequently, a brief analysis of the potential EUP’s role in the UK’s renegotiation of its membership in the EU will provide further elements of reflection on EUP’s effectiveness as a legislative body.[4]

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The European Union’s Counter-Terrorism Policy: clear-cut or counter-intuitive?

Lily Nowroz, LLB student, King’s College London 

In the wake of recent terror attacks throughout Europe, there appears to be an increasing demand for a unified stance by the European Union to demonstrate its condemnation of the acts. However, this demand is not entirely new, it is something that citizens of the EU have witnessed before. Ten years ago following the terror attacks of London, Madrid and events of 9/11, the Union appeared to be in a similar position as it is today, with an unclear manner of presenting a unified stance against the terrorist threat to the citizens of Europe. The EU is a system of poly-governance with an array of abilities and actors to adopt and implement certain policies if it desired. However, regarding its counter-terrorism policy, it has in no way reached its full potential in implementing such policies in an effective way. So what is it about the Union’s counter-terrorism policy that makes it so counter productive?

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Is the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) of the European Union adequate to respond to the current refugee crisis in Europe?

Mathilde Crepin, PhD Candidate Dickson Poon School of law, UNHCR appointed judge at the national court of asylum law (CNDA) in Paris

In 2011, the political turmoil in North Africa and in the Middle East prompted the flight of millions of people from their home place. Some of them attempted to seek protection in Europe, causing a significant rise of asylum applications in the Member States of the European Union (EU) in 2013 and 2014.[1] Under both International[2] and EU Law.[3] Member States have the obligation to take efficient and coordinated measures to address the needs of refugees and this necessity is even more pressing in light of the latest statistics, estimating that approximately one million asylum applications will be lodged in the European Union in 2015.[4]

Unfortunately, Member States have proven relatively unable to respond to this humanitarian crisis at the European level. EU countries agreed in 1999 to create a Common European Asylum System (CEAS), setting up minimum standards for harmonizing asylum systems in Europe.[5] However, instead of consistently applying the provisions of the CEAS, Member States have adopted unilateral measures to tackle the outflow of asylum seekers in their territory.[6]  In response to this situation, the Commission issued in September 2015 a decision on 40 infringements[7] directed at 19 governments of the EU. At this occasion, the European Commission First Vice-President, Frans Timmermans, stated that the CEAS could function only if everyone “played by the rules”.[8] However, the inability or unwillingness of the Member States to “play by the rules” reveals deeper concerns, namely that the CEAS might not be adequate to efficiently tackle the current needs of asylum seekers and migrants in Europe.

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