Heightened Brexit fears spark student uncertainty
While everyone ums and ahs about which way they are going to be voting in the upcoming EU referendum, law students have another thing on their minds: the future of their European law modules.
Will EU law still be taught on LLB and GDL modules if the UK votes out, or will the infamously long case names be swept off the curricula?
The topic on everyone’s lips at the moment is the UK’s place in the EU. In the week that David Cameron announced the date of the in-out referendum (which, coincidentally, clashes with the Glastonbury festival) and Boris Johnson put his stake in the ground — alongside Justice Secretary and ex-Justice Secretary Michael Gove and Chris Grayling — as a vote to leave campaigner, the chance of a UK breakaway from the EU feels very real.
So what does this mean for budding lawyers? The future of the legal profession in a theoretical post-Brexit UK has been a hot topic of discussion in recent months, and City law firms have been vocal in their pro-Bremain stance.
Uncertainty has also begun to simmer about EU law as an academic discipline, and whether it could or would survive a vote to leave. Speculation about the status of EU law on GDL and LLB syllabuses — as a core module anyway — has bobbed along for some months now.
Wanting Britain out of the EU purely because you hate EU Law. #LawStudentProblems
— Law Student Problems (@LawVicissitudes) March 6, 2015
I have not spent blood, sweat and tears this year suffering to learn EU Law as part of my degree for us to leave the European Union so soon
— Will (@willoughbywills) April 29, 2015
A minute of silence for all graduates in EU law after Brexit.
— Leonardo Carella (@leonardocarella) February 21, 2016
But, according to Professor Jeff Kenner — Professor of European Law at the University of Nottingham — there’s nothing to worry about. When asked whether EU law will still feature as a core module on law degree syllabuses if the UK votes to leave the EU in June, Kenner simply replied “yes it will”.
Others aren’t so sure. UCL professor Richard Moorhead had this to say:
Brexit would clearly mean the curricula would change and would likely weaken law firm opportunities in Europe and here, but I doubt either element would happen quickly. Brexit negotiations may proceed more slowly than legal education reform.
Sir Alan Dashwood QC — part-time professor of law at City University and barrister at Henderson Chambers — echoed Moorhead’s sentiments. He told Legal Cheek:
The effect of a vote to leave the EU would certainly have an impact on legal education and legal practice in the UK. Not immediately, perhaps, because there would be an immensely complex task of unravelling the UK’s relationship with the EU, which would require expert lawyers.
Very soon, however, EU law would cease to be a core topic, though there would be room for optional University courses and some residual continuing relevance to legal practice, e.g. in the field of competition law.
So, the message from the universities isn’t all that clear. But with the chances of a Brexit fluctuating day by day, there is a real debate to be had about the future of the EU law module.