As the UK leaves the EU, in light of the seismic result of the United Kingdom referendum this morning, there will be an immense amount to do, for the UK and the remaining EU, and for companies that are either based in, or have interests in the UK. It will be necessary both to consider the existing positions of companies and individuals and how to achieve the best solutions in any future relationship between the UK and the remaining EU. The key theme is "whether specific solutions can be agreed" as illustrated below.
Initially, there will be tremendous uncertainty, because it is not known what the UK will seek, or what the remaining EU Member States will accept, as an agreement on their future relationship.
The most relevant ideas so far focus on an ad hoc bilateral agreement between the UK and the remaining EU (e.g. starting from the agreement between the EU and Switzerland, but with variations) to a more distant, World Trade Organization ("WTO") based relationship. The arrangement that Norway has with the EU would appear to be a non-starter in the UK, since it requires Norway to accept all EU Single Market legislation, including free movement of people across the EEA (the EU, plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein).
Both the UK and the EU also have complex internal political issues and agendas now. The UK will be seeking to maintain as much continuing EU Single Market access as possible. The EU will be concerned not to undervalue market access and/or give an incentive for others to seek similar referenda. The relevant meetings will start shortly.
In every area, precise assessments will be necessary. A few legal points are clear already:
Article 50 of the Treaty of European Union provides for the leaving Member State to give notice to leave and negotiations on exit to take place within a two year period from notice.
Most think that such a period will be too short to agree on withdrawal and the UK's future relationship with the EU. It may be necessary therefore to agree on an extension in the negotiating period. However, that has to be accepted unanimously by the European Council, composed of the remaining EU Member States, so it is not clear what will happen. As a result, Mr. Cameron has announced that he proposes to discuss with his EU counterparts when the UK should give notice to trigger the running of time formally (or hold off until after October when his successor as UK Prime Minister will be announced).
The UK Government has estimated it will take over a decade to sort out the EU legacy of shared rules. However, practically that is likely too long so, even if there is an extension in the negotiating period, specific solutions...