A UK vote to leave the EU would generate a bubble of legal work far bigger than that following the 2008 collapse of Lehman brothers, a magic circle partner told MPs last week – but the bonanza would be only temporary.
Richard Cranfield, global chairman of Allen & Overy’s corporate practice, said that Brexit would throw up ‘a massive amount of work’ from clients demanding answers to the status of more than 40 years of legislation either influenced or drafted by the EU or its predecessor communities. He was speaking to the all-party parliamentary group on legal and constitutional affairs at an event organised by the Law Society and Bar Council.
Gordon Nardell QC of 20 Essex Street Chambers, chair of the Bar Council’s EU law committee, said that the volume of law that would require rewriting raised questions of whether a Brexit would be achievable within the two years specified by the Treaty of European Union without the ‘unpalatable use of Henry VIII clauses’. Rather, he predicted that a constitutional convention would have to be set up under an ‘agreement to agree’.
He added that a remain vote on 23 June would not remove the uncertainty, given controversy over the interpretation of the UK’s ‘special status’ with the rest of the EU.
Meanwhile, justice secretary Michael Gove cited the role of the European Court of Justice as a reason for Brexit in his first major speech as a leader of the leave campaign.
A vote to remain in the EU would allow the EU to press ahead with plans for what Gove called the ‘next great transfer of powers from EU members to EU institutions’. This would include powers over ‘the heart of our legal system so we are less able to safeguard the integrity of the contract, and property law which is crucial to attracting global investors’.
The ECJ already has the perfect legal excuse to grab more power through the Charter of Fundamental Rights, Gove said, despite the UK’s promised opt-out.
‘The ECJ has now informed us that our opt-out was worthless and has started making judgments applying the charter to UK law,’ he said.