Brexit vote results virtually concluded

Early exit polls are in – but will the UK stay in the European Union or leave?

While final results aren’t due for another several hours, early indications from a respected poll strongly suggest that Britain has voted to stay in the European Union.

No official exit polls were conducted for Brexit, but a YouGov poll showed Remain beating Leave 52%-48%. While the poll has a much smaller sample size than a typical exit poll, YouGov did call the Scottish Independence vote within one percentage point in 2014. And Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party and a prominent booster of the Leave campaign, has told Sky News that he thinks “Remain will edge it.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron had long lobbied for Britain to remain in the EU, saying an exit would cost British jobs and deal a blow to the nation’s economy. Those who wanted to leave the union, however, said Brexit would allow the U.K. to better control immigration and save the money it contributes to the EU’s budget.

It's a sigh of relief for lawyers with many beliving a Brexit could create legal havoc.

"EU law is part of UK law and its adoption has given UK citizens, companies and public authorities rights and duties," Professor Sionaidh Douglas-Scott, a constitutional law expert at Queen Mary University of London told the AFR.

"Repealing or amending them would be a complex and demanding process. Serious detriment and havoc will be caused to the British constitution in the process."

Many analysts believe a UK exit from the EU would have had a profound effect on global markets – perhaps even sending them into a nosedive. There were fears that Britain’s severing of ties with the EU would negatively impact trade, economic growth, investment and jobs in Europe.

According to a report by the AFR, the nature of the British legal system poses particular challenges as much EU legislation has been incorporated into British law.  Even if a statute is removed, its principles – for example, on legislation governing workers' rights – would remain in force.

Case law could become dangerously murky, some say. Douglas-Scott said: "If some EU law is retained in domestic law post-withdrawal, what would be the mechanisms used to interpret it?

"Would UK courts revert to pre-1972 understandings of UK law, or would they continue to look at EU law and decisions of the European Court of Justice to interpret British law?"

New domestic laws would have to be introduced to fill gaps where the EU now has competence, said Douglas-Scott – such as in the licensing of medicines.

Whatever type of legal divorce takes place post-Brexit, it will tie up resources for years to come.

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