No, I didn’t see that coming either. But since the preferences of elite opinion-makers seem to be taking it on the chin around the world, perhaps we shouldn’t have been so surprised.
From the perhaps insulated vantage-point of a country where EU membership will never be the remotest question so long as recorded history continues, may I offer a bit of perspective?
First off, I’ve been reading the widely reported “shell-shocked” reactions of many City law firm leaders (as one put it) and the universal theme is one of great uncertainty with:
- “An enormous amount of work to do …. While the result of the vote is clear, the process it has now committed the country to is not. The timing of negotiations, their shape and format, the extent to which the exit and new agreements can be discussed side-by-side; all of this is still to be clarified as the dust settles” (Lord Goldsmith QC, a former Attorney General for England and Wales and now London co-managing partner at Debevoise & Plimpton)
- “Significant regulatory and legal implications,” “[giving rise to] the biggest legislative and regulatory program that this country has ever seen” (Norton Rose Fulbright global competition head Martin Coleman)
- “There may be legal issues and litigation surrounding any Brexit clauses in contracts. … . Then at some point there’s the usual litigation associated with economic shock which we have seen overnight.” (Hogan Lovells disputes partner Charles Brasted)
- “an upsurge in client queries and questions into what this means and (potentially) deal opportunities for those who seek deal opportunities created by the uncertainty. You can imagine dispute-orientated work may increase alongside regulatory.” (Oliver Brettle, White & Case London executive partner)
- “Already we are advising our clients on the review of business-critical contracts. Agreements which specifically reference the EU as the territory governed by the contract may lack clarity. There may also be ambiguity around how the impact of tariffs will be shared. The sooner amendments can be agreed or terms negotiated, the more businesses can increase their sense of certainty.” (Pinsent Masons partner Guy Lougher).
Call me simple-minded, but doesn’t this sound like a tremendous spike in demand for lawyers? Or, as Arnie Jacobs, my great mentor in corporate and securities law when I was an impossibly young associate, put it a few years ago when I asked him what he thought of the complexities introduced by Dodd-Frank: “It’s grrreeeaaat!”
A bit more perspective, now from the advantaged posture of outside observer.