Bonfire of the Legalities?*

June 27, 2016

UK law after the referendum.

Much has been written in the last few days (and, indeed, over the last few months) about the potential consequences of the repeal of 1000s of EU-originated laws in the UK. Most of it is an exaggeration because (1) most EU-originated laws are unlikely to be repealed, and (2) any repeals are unlikely to happen for many years (long after the UK leaves the EU).

The UK government will try to stabilise the economy and protect jobs and will start to develop a plan about how it will trade with the EU and the rest of the world (whether joining the EEA or EFTA, establishing a customs union, relying on the WTO treaty, being “duty-free”, or something else). That plan will be partially formulated in the Conservative leadership contest over the next few months, as different candidates put forward different visions for the UK.

As a result, the referendum has created a “once in a lifetime” opportunity for companies operating in the UK. Almost every law could be repealed or replaced. Not just EU-originated laws.

Companies operating in the UK have an opportunity to influence (1) which laws will be repealed or replaced and (2) the priorities in which laws will be repealed and replaced (because those at the back of the queue probably will not be considered for a decade, given the volume of legislation).

The UK government will be keen to show that it is implementing the “will of the people”, and that it is taking active steps to improve the competitiveness of the UK economy, whilst at the same time not taking drastic action to disrupt the legislative and regulatory framework in a way that would prevent the UK from being able to reach a trade deal with the EU. Waiting two years for the exit from the EU will not be an option. The UK government will need to start to act in 2016.

This comes back to the “once in a lifetime” opportunity over the next few months. Companies and trade associations have a “clean sheet of paper” for imagining a new regulatory environment, better legislation, different trading relationships, etc. The UK government will be looking for new ideas and ways to enhance competitiveness. This is particularly the case for the UK’s main exports (such as financial services, cars, machinery, etc).

This “blue sky” thinking will require a detailed understanding of the existing laws, what has worked and not worked in other countries, and the ability to imagine. Morgan Lewis can help you.


For more than three decades, Morgan Lewis has represented companies and institutions doing business in the United Kingdom and globally. Our Brexit team of lawyers have been advising clients on a variety of legal issues in the run up to the decision and are assessing the complex short- and long-term implications of the June 23 vote. Our Brexit Resource Centre will continue to provide guidance on the legal and business implications of the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the union. To view this alert and others, and to gain immediate access to our most recent guidance on Brexit, please visit the Brexit Resource Centre. In addition, please feel free to speak to your usual contact at Morgan Lewis or to contact any one of the Brexit Team via


If you have any questions or would like more information on the issues discussed in this LawFlash, please contact any of the following Morgan Lewis lawyers:

Bruce Johnston
Simon Currie
Matthew Howse
Frances Murphy
William Yonge
Kate Habershon

* With apologies to Tom Wolfe.