After a month out of the office, it has proven very difficult to get back into the work routine.
In the meantime, the United Kingdom may be facing the opposite problem. After over forty years in the EU (aka EEC) it is now having to contemplate the political, economic and legal realities of trying to get out. As always, the legal industry has seen a great new market opening up and has been quick to provide advice and offer new services and consultancy packages to companies and clients wanting to survive and make a profit.
For contract lawyers the issues of choice of law and jurisdiction have jumped into mind:
Under EU Regulations Rome 1 and 2 (in relation to contractual and non-contractual obligations respectively) English courts are currently obliged to apply the parties’ choice of law (subject to limited exceptions). If the UK does in fact later leave the EU and this legislation did not continue under UK law, the efficacy of the parties’ choice of law would largely remain. The English courts would, under English common law, continue to uphold the parties’ choice in relation to contractual matters (and most probably, non-contractual matters).
In relation to jurisdiction, the issues are more complex. EU legislation (e.g. EU Regulation No. 1215/2012, “Brussels 1 Recast”) will allow a contract clause in favour of the English courts by conferring jurisdiction on those courts and requiring any non-chosen EU court to decline jurisdiction to the extent the clause is exclusive. If the UK leaves the EU and none of the EU legislation was retained by the UK, the English courts would, under English common law, accept jurisdiction on the basis of the parties’ choice. However, the treatment of the clause for any non-chosen EU court declining jurisdiction in favour of the English courts, as a third-party non-EU state, would be more complex and may depend on the application of the Brussels 1 Recast, the Lugano Convention 2007 or national rules on the conflict of laws. There could be a lack of transparency and far more inconsistency.
Moving away from their clients and contracts, other English lawyers have concentrated on their own professional future and started to look for admission as Irish or U.S. lawyers:
Legal industry observers are also predicting a further surge in solicitors from the UK seeking admission to practise in the Republic of Ireland. The Law Society of Ireland revealed earlier this week that 186 solicitors from the UK have been admitted to practise in the republic – more than three times the total at this stage last year. The vast majority cited the possibility of Brexit as their primary motivation. (The Law Society Gazette, 26 June 2016)
Time will tell what is eventually going to happen.
I can only take comfort in a saying that I first heard here in Germany which directly translates as:
“Nothing is eaten as hot as it is cooked”
Perhaps we now need a new European cooking and tasting programme.