Complexity’s Embrace: The International Law Implications of Brexit

April 5, 2018
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The United Kingdom’s June 2016 Brexit vote sent shockwaves throughout the European Union and the world. Since the start of Brexit negotiations, the complexity and cost of extracting the United Kingdom from the European Union and its regulatory and governance structures have become increasingly evident. The United Kingdom has to disentangle itself from the many ties that bind it to the European Union; negotiate mutually acceptable replacement agreements; prepare satisfactory domestic replacement law, regulation and administrative institutions; and get ready to negotiate new treaties with other states once autonomy is achieved.

Complexity’s Embrace: The International Law Implications of Brexit looks into the deep currents of legal and governance change that will result from the United Kingdom’s departure. The book’s contributors include international law experts and academics from the United Kingdom, Europe and North America who present the challenges of Brexit from different viewpoints and across a wide range of areas. These areas include trade, financial services, cross-border insolvency, intellectual property rights, the environment and human rights.

The book reveals details of what Brexit means for international and domestic laws and regulations that shape daily life and suggests possible ways forward. UK negotiators face the challenge of satisfying Leave voters’ desire for greater British autonomy and control while avoiding economic and social upheaval. As the authors of Complexity’s Embrace peel back the layers of this onion and negotiators on both sides try to find an acceptable compromise, the question burns: will the two parties be able to achieve a mutually satisfactory separation agreement?

Oonagh E. Fitzgerald is director of the International Law Research Program at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI). 

Eva Lein is a professor at the University of Lausanne and senior research fellow at the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL). 


Introduction    Oonagh E. Fitzgerald and Eva Lein

Section One: Trade 

1. Brexit and International Trade: One Year after the Referendum    Valerie Hughes

2. Squaring the Circle: The Search for an Accommodation between the European Union and the United Kingdom   Armand de Mestral

3. Renegotiating the EU-UK Trade Relationship: Lessons from NAFTA    David A. Gantz

4. Trade Policy in the Age of Populism: Why the New Bilateralism Will Not Work    Thomas Cottier

Section Two: Financial Services 

5. Brexit and Financial Services: Navigating through the Complexity of Exit Scenarios    Maziar Peihani

6. How Does It Feel to Be a Third Country? The Consequences of Brexit for Financial Market Law    Matthias Lehmann and Dirk Zetzsche

7. Cross-border Insolvencies after Brexit: Views from the United Kingdom and Continental Europe    Howard P. Morris, Gabriel Moss, Federico M. Mucciarelli and Christoph G. Paulus

8. Failing Financial Institutions: How Will Brexit Impact Cross-border Cooperation in Recovery, Reconstruction and Insolvency Processes?    Dorothy Livingston

Section Three: Intellectual Property 

9. UK Patent Law and Copyright Law after Brexit: Potential Consequences    Luke McDonagh

10. The Effect of Brexit on Trademarks, Designs and Other “Europeanized” Areas of Intellectual Property Law in the United Kingdom    Marc Mimler

Section Four: Environment 

11. Brexit and Environmental Law: The Rocky Road Ahead    Markus Gehring and Freedom-Kai Phillips

12. Advancing Environmental Justice in a Post-Brexit United Kingdom    Damilola S. Olawuyi

13. Brexit and International Environmental Law    Richard Macrory and Joe Newbigin

14. Brexit, Brexatom, the Environment and Future International Relations    Stephen Tromans

Section Five: Human Rights 

15. Lessons from Brexit: Reconciling International and Constitutional Aspirations    Oonagh E. Fitzgerald

16. Brexit and Human Rights    Colm O’Cinneide

17. Brexit: Can the United Kingdom Change Its Mind?    Helen Mountfield

Conclusion    Oonagh E. Fitzgerald and Eva Lein

Book Trailer

About the Editor

Oonagh E. Fitzgerald was director of international law at CIGI from April 2014 to February 2020. In this role, she established and oversaw CIGI’s international law research agenda, which included policy-relevant research on issues of international economic law, environmental law, IP law and innovation, and Indigenous law.

Eva Lein is a professor at the University of Lausanne and senior research fellow at the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL).