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A UK Exit from the EU: The End of the United Kingdom or a New Constitutional Dawn?

Cambridge Journal of International and Comparative Law, 2015

Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 25/2015

12 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2015  

Sionaidh Douglas-Scott

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law; Queen Mary University of London

Date Written: March 5, 2015

Abstract

Only recently, in September 2014, the UK survived one of the most serious threats to its constitutional existence – a very closely run Scottish referendum on independence. That this was indeed perceived as a huge risk to the continuance of the UK is illustrated by the almost desperate nature of the last minute ‘Vow’ made by all three party leaders to accord greater powers to Scotland in an effort to maintain the Union.

Therefore, the risk of further such constitutional instability should be taken seriously. Yet this is not happening, given the neglect of the impact on the devolution settlement of any future UK exit from the EU. The consequences on devolution tend to be the least discussed aspect of any ‘Brexit’.

This article considers the impact of a UK exit from the EU on the UK devolutionary settlement, as well as considering its effects on Ireland. It considers whether it would be possible for the devolved nations to set a threshold for withdrawal from the EU that required a majority of votes in each of the UK's component parts in the event of a Westminster mandated EU in-out referendum. It also considers the concept of sovereignty from the perspectives of other parts of the UK, in contrast to an orthodox, Diceyan view of parliamentary sovereignty.

Finally, it looks to the longer term, assessing the prospect for more radical constitutional change in the UK, brought about by different attitudes to the EU among the UK's component parts. Is a federal UK likely in the longer term? And would it ever be possible for England to exit the EU within a UK in which Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland remained EU members?

Keywords: UK constitutional law, UK devolution, EU membership, EU exit, federalism, international law, comparative law, EU law, international organisations

Suggested Citation

Douglas-Scott, Sionaidh, A UK Exit from the EU: The End of the United Kingdom or a New Constitutional Dawn? (March 5, 2015). Cambridge Journal of International and Comparative Law, 2015; Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 25/2015. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2574405

Sionaidh Douglas-Scott (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law ( email )

St Cross Building
St Cross Road
Oxford, OX1 3UL
United Kingdom

Queen Mary University of London ( email )

School of Economics and Finance
Mile End Road
London, E1 4NS
United Kingdom

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