Brexit will not happen, claims head of Durham Law School who said Article 50 wouldn’t be triggered

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By Katie King on

Don’t throw out your EU law statute books just yet

The head of Durham Law School, Thom Brooks, has told Legal Cheek he still doesn’t think Brexit will happen, despite Article 50 having already been triggered.

Not least the dean of a top Russell Group university and an expert in legal academia spanning many practice areas, Brooks has become an authoritative voice in the Brexit debate. Speaking to Legal Cheek about his forecasts, he confidently said:

Brexit will not happen in a strict sense that the key promises made by the Vote Leave campaign won’t materialise. There’s enormous pressure on the Tories to deliver Brexit, so they will have to show that something (even something small) has changed and they can dress up these changes as a ‘Brexit’.

Brooks — whose research interests include immigration law, jurisprudence and criminal law — went on to say these token changes may look like the ‘deal’ then Prime Minister David Cameron managed to negotiate with the EU. This draft agreement included a broad-brush recognition from Europe that the UK is not committed to further political integration.

Despite American-born Brooks’ assertions that it’ll never happen, Brexit is already having an impact. Law students are worried, law firms are seeking European lawyers over UK qualifiers, solicitors are transferring to the Irish roll, and Brexit’s even being blamed for low retention rates.

If we’re never going to leave the EU, why all the legal profession chaos? Brooks explained:

Any uncertainty isn’t good. Law firms are businesses, and they’re constantly thinking about how they’re going to make their firms compete, and it’s difficult to do this in an economic climate where there’s so much uncertainty. People are simply waiting around to see what Brexit means and what shape it’s going to take.

The fault, he said, lies with the government:

Until the government moves to clarify its position, the uncertainty will persist. It has a responsibility to bring it to an end. So much rests on getting this right and not prolonging the uncertainty.

Brooks ‘we’ll never leave the EU’ sentiments are not new, dating back (at least) to an August 2016 Mail Online article. In this same piece, however, he also said: “I do not think Article 50 will be invoked” — a prediction that proved incorrect in March this year when:

One of several Brexit memes Legal Cheek created

On this, Brooks admits defeat. He was led to believe that the Miller challenge was evidence the Tories were looking to “scapegoat” the courts, i.e. blame their non-triggering of Article 50 on judges, to cover up the fact they didn’t want to trigger it themselves.

“The fact is, the government has got itself into a pickle,” he said. “It’s their party who called the referendum, they’ve been lumped with a result they don’t want to honour but that they said they would. They really don’t have much to play with. They’re probably hoping Brexit fatigue will cause the EU to bend on some issues, but I doubt that will happen. The EU really is calling the shots right now.”

Even if we do end up leaving the EU, don’t expect to wangle out of your European law classes.

Brooks stressed to Legal Cheek that the subject will still be taught at UK law schools because: “even if we did have a hard Brexit, which I don’t believe for a second, we’re only a short distance from the EU and UK lawyers will still need a good general knowledge about what the EU is and what it does.” Factortame lives on.

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