What does Brexit mean for law degrees?

Following the vote to leave the EU there has been a non-stop onslaught of news, analysis and claims about what Brexit will mean for the UK and Europe, and what the future holds.  Nowhere more so will the effects of Brexit be felt than in law, where EU law features predominantly.  As law students, the future is particularly unclear as to what Brexit means.  What laws will change, how will modules shape up and will there still be a need to learn EU law?

Here are how the compulsory subjects required for a qualifying law degree by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and Bar Standards Board (BSB) may be affected.

 

Constitutional law

Focusing on the principles of our constitution and how they apply, this module could well feature Brexit in the future.  Whilst the doctrines of parliamentary sovereignty, rule of law and separation of powers will of course remain ever relevant, the question ‘is the sovereignty of Parliament impacted by the UK’s membership of the EU?’, an old examiners favourite, may finally be laid to rest.

 

Tort law

Tort law is largely derived from English common law, and such would not be directly impacted by Brexit.  Where Parliament has passed law in order to comply with EU directives, these statutes would remain in force until amended or repealed.

In the short term this would mean little to no change for students studying tort law.  However now Parliament no longer has to take any EU directives into account when legislating, more drastic reforms of the law are possible and students should take up a healthy interest in current events to keep up with legislative changes.

 

Contract law

Much like tort law, contract law is derived largely from English common law, and so not directly impacted by the effects of Brexit.

However the interpretation of contracts remains a key element of the current law module.  There may be debate or disagreement regarding how courts should interpret a contract designed to be governed by English law, with EU law integration, in the new post Brexit English legal system.  Whether a new set of conditions for interpretation needs to be applied may be something students could be expected to learn.

 

EU law

If there is one module of a law degree that is going to change drastically, then surely EU law is it.  As EU law could possibly no longer apply, there may be no need to learn directives, regulations, the Treaty of the Functioning European Union, or even cases such as the classic R v Secretary of State for Transport, ex parte Factortame Ltd and others [1991] 1 All ER 70.

However as there is currently no guarantee on how the English legal system will look post Brexit. Depending on the outcome of negotiations, EU law may remain just as relevant.  Should the UK adopt a Norwegian module, then EU law will continue to apply.  Furthermore, it is widely acknowledged that knowledge of EU law would continue to be valuable, either due to the EU remaining a major trading partner, or as a basis for a route into more specialised areas of law.

 

It’s clear then that whatever the eventual result of the UK’s decision to leave the EU, a knowledge of EU law will remain useful and highly prized in your legal career.  Our advice for any students who are midway through their law degree, or about to start one, is ‘’don’t burn your EU law textbooks yet!”

 

Written by Joe Beet – OULS News Reporter

Joe Beet

 

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