The future of the UK: A legal perspective

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Professor Hussein Kassim (UEA) is currently hosting ‘Brexit means Brexit, but what does that mean?', a series of public discussion, which considers the likely consequences of the UK's departure from the EU on UK politics, UK business, regulation, the UK nations and immigration and community relations in the UK.

On Thursday 19 January, the topic of the event was 'The Future of the UK'. The panel comprised of professor Michael Keating (University of Aberdeen), Dr Jo Hunt (Cardiff University), professor John Curtice (University of Strathclyde) and myself. Michael provided for an overview of the constitutional issues that Brexit has created. Jo spoke about Wales. John presented his latest findings on public opinion with regard to the Scottish independence. Finally, I was asked to provide for the legal perspective

Although at that time, the outcome of Miller was not yet known, I tried to make three points concerning the Brexit implications for the UK constitutional order:

1. Brexit and especially the decision of the current administration to take the UK out of the single market and the EU customs union poses significant challenges to the UK constitutional order. Take Northern Ireland as an example. If the UK opts for hard Brexit, there will either be a land border on Ireland or a sea border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. Such development will put pressure on the fragile peace settlement.

2. In order to absorb the tensions that Brexit will create to the UK constitutional order, the UK and the EU might want to opt for a differentiated Brexit that would address the concerns of the different UK nations. I have suggested to check the solution that the EU has used in order to deal with the tensions created by the division in another island: Cyprus.

3. Such legal flexibility, however, depends on political willingness. Although the UK government has said that they would make everything possible in order to avoid the situation of a land border on Ireland, Theresa May has not even entertained the idea of a differentiated Brexit for Scotland. 

Here is a video of my presentation.

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