Academic journal article Suffolk Transnational Law Review

A Poorly Decided Divorce: Brexit's Effect on the European Union and United Kingdom

Academic journal article Suffolk Transnational Law Review

A Poorly Decided Divorce: Brexit's Effect on the European Union and United Kingdom

Article excerpt


On June 24, 2016, the world awoke and learned the United Kingdom voted by referendum to leave the European Union, or "Brexit." (1) Responding to the result of the referendum vote, the world financial markets entered a new era of uncertainty. (2) Additionally, that morning the United Kingdom's Prime Minister David Cameron resigned, requiring the formation of a new executive government. (3) The United Kingdom, in the weeks and months that followed, insisted the referendum would go into effect by instigating proceedings under Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon. (4) This occurred despite calls for the resolution never to come before Parliament, calls to avoid haste, and even calls for a new referendum. (5)

This Note evaluates the formation of the modern European Union, reviews the treaty provisions the Union's Member States are subject to, and discusses the future landscape of the United Kingdom and European Union, should the Brexit Referendum go into effect. (6) Part II of this Note focuses on the history and development of the European Union, including the entrance of major political actors, and the evolution of efforts within the United Kingdom to leave. (7) Part III evaluates current and future political strains between the United Kingdom and the remaining European Union Member States, as well as other world powers, including likely economic effects. (8) Part IV explores current litigation pending in British courts surrounding the referendum, Brexit's potential effect on social and political issues, and evaluates the different forms Brexit may take. (9) Part V concludes the risks associated with Brexit outweigh the reward and, if Brexit is inevitable, advocates for caution in forthcoming negotiations. (10)


Today's European Union represents a major evolution in international relations over the last few centuries, from a frequent state of war between nations to a mostly continual state of cooperative support. (11) The historical reality of war in Europe, from the 1500s through 1945, resulted in roughly a seven percent loss of the average population per century. (12) In fact, during the past five centuries in Europe, relative peace has only existed while nations actively committed to cooperate with each other. (13) Europe's first major peace treaty occurred in 1648 with the Peace Treaty between the Holy Roman Emperor and the King of France and their Respective Allies, known as The Treaty of Westphalia. (14) Later, during the post-Napoleonic era, the European Monarchies came to a general, though volatile, consensus to preserve the status quo through the Concert of Europe. (15) Despite this consensus, war erupted again in Europe, from 1915 through the end of World War II (WWII) in 1945. (16)

A. Evolution of the European Economic Community to the Establishment of the European Union

In 1950, Robert Schuman announced the "Schuman Plan," entailing cooperation in the coal and steel industries between European countries, laying the foundation for the modern European Union. (17) Europe's first foray into a twentieth century cooperative accord occurred in 1951 with the Treaty Establishing the European Coal and Steal Community (ESCS Treaty), between West Germany, Italy, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. (18) In 1957, these nations agreed to further co operative provisions via the Treaty Establishing the European Economic Community (Treaty of Rome). (19) The Treaty of Rome established, in part, the European Common Market and European Atomic Energy Commission. (20) Doing so created the modern European Economic Community (E.E.C.). (21) The E.E.C.'s Common Market established the free movement of goods, the free movement of services, and the free movement of people, which effectively removed barriers to trade between Member States. (22)

The continued economic success of the E.E.C.'s Common Market lead to substantial growth, both in the E. …

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