Summer Reading II: Complexity’s Embrace: the International Law Implications of Brexit (Oonagh E. Fitzgerald and Eva Lein (eds))

A full review of this book will appear in the November issue of the International Journal

As I write, in the summer of 2018, there is tremendous noise in British politics: cries of frustration from those opposed to the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union; howls of outrage from those who fear Brexit will not loosen the ties of EU law; and confident pronouncements from officials that Britain will be ready – with stockpiled food and medicine – for even the hardest of Brexits.

Amidst the hubbub, however, only one noise really matters: the slow ticking of the clock. By operation of law the process triggered with great fanfare by the service of a notification under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union on March 29, 2017 will come to an end two years later, on March 29, 2019 – deal or no deal – unless the period is extended by unanimous agreement of the EU member states or some act of lawyerly ingenuity. At that point, the UK will become a ‘third country’ in the eyes of EU law. It will be as if a previously unknown landmass, equipped with a developed legal system and a powerhouse economy, had suddenly emerged on the other side of the Channel.

Those who wish to think about the post-Brexit framework, coolly and calmly, concentrating on the ticking clock rather than on the noise emanating from a fevered British body politic, will enjoy this collection. The primary merit of this collective endeavour is that it dispassionately lays out the basic options from which the EU and, primarily, the UK can choose – a move to the European Economic Area and European Free Trade Association (think Norway); a series of bilateral agreements (think Switzerland); or a Free Trade Agreement (think CETA) – and considers the implications for various areas of economic activity and public policy.

This content has been updated on September 7, 2018 at 12:27.