The UK is the premier hub of law and legal services in the country. With barristers aplenty, EU and UK law are taught in classrooms. The university law syllabus of many legal institutions included the EU for decades.
EU law dominates all domestic laws simply because the UK’s legal system interacts deeply with EU’s approval.
So here are a few changes we should expect to see.
This module focuses on the key organising principles of our constitution, such as doctrines like the rule of law, separation of powers and parliamentary sovereignty, and the impact of the EU and devolution on these. One of the major debates within this module, requiring students to dissect cases like Factortame, Thoburn and Jackson, is whether parliament sacrificed its sovereignty by implementing the European Community Act 1972 (ECA).
A Brexit wouldn’t render an EU law module less useful and students would still need to study it
Clearly, a Brexit could have a major impact on how students are expected to discuss this debate. It would offer them a new perspective through which doctrines could be examined.
But it seems improbable that a major overhaul of the constitutional law module would be on the cards, according to Mark Elliott, a law professor at the University of Cambridge, who says “immediate changes to what students study are unlikely”.
However, Professor Elliott says a Brexit could affect what students look at in constitutional law. “Although it would lay to rest the debate about the relationship between parliamentary sovereignty and the primacy of EU law, the interaction of those principles during the UK’s membership of the EU has revealed important things about sovereignty, and our constitution more generally, that would remain relevant,” to essays on such topics.
Tort law largely originates from the English common law system and legislation created independently by parliament. However, in certain key areas, parliament has to pass laws in order to ensure English law complies with EU directives.
Immediately after a Brexit, directive-driven statutes that already exist – such as the Consumer Protection Act 1987 (CPA) which comes from EC directive 85/374 – would remain good law until amended or repealed by parliament. Most of the law in these areas is settled and amendments and repeals unlikely, meaning that for students studying these areas of tort law, there is likely to be little impact.
However, if there were to be changes effected by parliament, a Brexit could prevent the EU from having any further influence over such amendments and repeals. Parliament could have the unfettered ability to pass new legislation to govern tort law. Any alterations to the law could therefore be more drastic than without a Brexit, for parliament could include or exclude provisions it may have had to sacrifice or water-down in order to comply with EU law, as is its obligation as a member state. This could lead to potentially sweeping changes to some areas of tort law that law students would have to tackle.
Contract law, which is largely a product of common law, could still in some respects be affected by a Brexit.
Interpretation of contracts is the key element of a contract law module: if you don’t know how to work out a contract’s contents, how can you learn the rules that govern it? There already exists a set of conditions for this purpose that is almost universally applied.
But a new set of conditions could be needed, which students may be expected to learn and apply to cases where – for example – there is a debate over how courts would interpret contracts that were meant to be governed by English law (when it included some EU law principle) but English law now no longer contains that principle (because of a Brexit).
Leaving the EU would obviously significantly affect a module about EU law, in which the constitution and the general workings of the EU court are studied alongside principles like freedom of movement and human rights. Jonny Dodd, 21, a law student at the University of Cambridge, jokes: “I’m tempted to vote no in the referendum, just so I have less EU law to learn.”
However, a Brexit wouldn’t necessarily render an EU module less useful and students would still need to study it. Professor Catherine Barnard, from the University of Cambridge, says: “If there is a Brexit, much depends on what’s put in its place. If it’s the Norway option, students will still need to study EU law; much will continue to apply, especially the law of the single market. And even if there is no alternative arrangement in place, the EU will continue to be our biggest trading partner and so many EU rules will continue to apply.”
Students may have to pay closer attention to the European Court of Justice because of the potential divergence between English and EU case law that a Brexit could facilitate. Furthermore, with the SRA and BSB recognising that EU law represents a springboard from which to study other specialist areas of law and progress towards qualification as a solicitor or barrister, we can be fairly sure that the EU law module will remain compulsory for students.
Source: The Guardian