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What Happens On 24th June If The ‘Leave’ Vote Triumphs?

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Leading EU law expert Professor Michael Dougan’s video on the the EU debate has gone viral, and is a must-watch for everyone before they vote on Thursday. In Professor Dougan’s opinion (and he is one of the few people in the country actually qualified enough to have one) the mistakes and dishonesty perpetrated by the Leave campaign and the media are on an “industrial scale”.

In the video, that has been viewed over 4.3 million times, he makes the comment that for a person who has spent their entire career studying the EU and is a professional researcher in the field, the referendum debate for him is on par with an evolutionary psychologist having to listen to a creationist vehemently tell the public that the creation theory is right and evolution is completely wrong.

In this article, I aim to look at the hard facts of what will happen if the British population votes to leave the EU on the 23rd June 2016.

The legal elements if the UK/EU ‘divorce

The process for withdrawing from the EU is set out in Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union (TEU). To trigger the withdrawal process, the UK Government must notify Brussels of its intention to withdraw. Professor Dougan makes it clear that the two-year time-line for leaving the EU under the TEU only applies to the ‘divorce settlement’ or the severance of ties between the EU and the UK. The main point that needs to be negotiated at this stage is the residence status of approximately three million EU nationals working, living or studying in the UK and the two million or so UK nationals currently doing the same on the Continent.

The actual framework for dealing with future relations between us and the EU is completely separate from the severance procedure. Experts in the field consider that negotiating a comprehensive framework agreement for the future will take no less than ten years. However, Professor Dougan pointed out that Switzerland signed its framework agreement in 1972; however, it is still negotiating what has now totalled over 100 bi-lateral treaties to deal with individual issues as they come up.

How will UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK be treated?

Along with the right to reside, there are a large number of rights issues to be negotiated and clarified when it comes to UK citizens living in the EU and EU citizens living in the UK. Contentious issues include the rights of family members, Employment rights, the rights to public funds, access to healthcare and grounds for removal.

Article 70 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties is often used by the Leave campaign as the treaty that will protect individual citizens’ ‘acquired rights’. However, they fail to mention that as Article 50 of the TEU has never been used before, the definition of ‘acquired rights’ in relation to it will need defining. Some literature states that the term applies only to property, not to public law rights such as Immigration.

This is why it is imperative for EU-nationals currently residing in the UK to obtain a Permanent Resident Card if they have been exercising their treaty rights for five years or more.

Review of the UK legal system

Professor Dougan points out that for over forty years UK law has evolved alongside and has been influenced by EU law, and it would be impossible to now separate the two. There is a consensus among academics that the enormous undertaking of reviewing the UK legal system could not be done by Parliament, instead, powers would be delegated to the Government.

This process, which must be completed quickly, will affect almost every area of UK law, especially Employment, Immigration, consumer and environmental law. It will also cost a fortune.

The effect on trade

The beauty of the EU free trade agreement according to Professor Dougan is that it eliminates all the regulatory barriers to trading within the 28 member states. He states that there is absolutely no doubt that if the UK wanted to maintain its current level of free trade access to the EU member states it would have to follow the Norwegian model of becoming a member of the EEA but not the EU. However, no one, especially the Norwegian Government, believe that this is a good deal. Norway is obliged to follow all the rules of the EU, pay a substantial contribution for access to the single market but has absolutely no say in how the EU is run or how regulations are made.

If Britain votes leave, however, it is unlikely that an EEA option would even be offered by Brussels, as it is conditional on accepting the principles of free movement and the Leave campaign has based much of its arguments on the fact that we, as a nation, do not want this.

By choosing to leave the single market and relying on World Trade Organisation rules and bi-lateral agreements (which take years to negotiate), the trading environment for UK exporters will become far less favourable and they will suffer, in the short term at least. Every notable economist believes that staying in the EU is the best option for the British economy.

Immigration and the Leave Campaign

Professor Dougan made the following succinct points regarding the truth about EU Immigration:

  • Two thirds of the foreign nationals living in the UK as at the date of the last Census (2011) come from outside the EU.
  • The Leave campaign is being dishonest when it states that all EU nationals have an unconditional right to move to the UK. To reside in the UK, EU citizens must either be economically active (working or self-employed), a student at a recognised institution or able to support themselves without accessing public funds.
  • Research shows that EU migrants take far less from the country than they put in (ie most are working and pay taxes).
  • The UK was one of only three EU countries that opened the door completely to nationals of the new member states of 2004 – all other EU members restricted their access for the first few years.
  • There is no possibility of Turkey joining the EU in any of our lifetimes - not least since several countries have indicated that they would hold national referenda on any Turkish deal, obviously in the expectation that their populations would overwhelmingly reject it

In Summary

Professor Dougan’s talk gives a true analysis on the current benefits the EU provides the UK and the consequences of us leaving.

Let’s hope that the majority of British people heed his word on Thursday.

OTS Solicitors is a fully regulated, highly regarded law firm, based in the centre of London. To make an appointment with one of our Immigration solicitors in relation to obtaining a UK permanent residence Card or British Citizenship, please call our office on 0203 959 9123.

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