Shoosmiths' experts in competition, employment, real estate, corporate and commercial comment on the EU referendum result.
Simon Barnes, head of EU and competition at Shoosmiths
The UK's competition laws mirror that of the EU's, therefore the vote to leave should in principle have very little, if any, effect on the competition law assessment of commercial agreements.
The leave vote could see changes in how competition law applies to certain types of commercial arrangement, such as distribution and licensing agreements, as the current rules come from the European Commission block exemption regulations and guidelines. These could be discarded now that we have opted out of the EU.
Disparities between the UK and EU's competition laws may emerge in the long term when differences in levels of enforcement and court judgements become apparent. Should the EU guidance be repealed, both the lawfulness of commercial arrangements and the compliance to varying rules in different jurisdictions will be a concern for businesses.
The EU Merger Regulation will now cease to apply with deals in future potentially having to be reviewed under both the Merger Regulation and the UK's domestic merger rules.
Control of State aid can now be retained by the UK, possibly allowing the UK to benefit from public support by way of grants and favourable tax regimes. However, respecting the existing EU rules on this may prove crucial in securing access to the EU single market.
Similarly the existing public procurement regime will most likely stay put to promote competitiveness in public tender processes and act as a tool in negotiating single market access.
Charles Rae, employment partner at Shoosmiths
Now that the UK has voted to leave the EU, once Brexit is completed the Government could in theory decide to repeal or revise a significant proportion of the UK's employment laws, where these are laws that are required as part of the UK's membership of the EU.
A number of employment laws fall into this category, such as many of the anti-discrimination rights, transfer of undertakings regulations, family leave entitlements, collective consultation obligations, duties to agency workers or working time regulations.
However, any kind of wholesale change seems unlikely for a number of reasons. Many of the laws in question have become so ingrained within UK businesses that it seems unlikely the Government would take steps to significantly change or remove them, especially where they provide rights to employees that have become widely accepted and valued. Moreover, much of the UK's employment legislation pre-dates the EU imposed ones, and have instead been built upon by later EU requirements, so the foundations are already in place.
For instance, the UK already had race and disability discrimination rules before the EU wide requirements were introduced. Many feel that more likely than repealing laws, the Government would take the opportunity to smooth off some of the less popular requirements set down by the EU, for example restrictions on changing terms and conditions following a TUPE transfer.
We may also find that freedom of movement within the EU leaves uncertainty as to the status of EU nationals who already work in the UK (and vice versa). Many businesses rely on EU workers and will want to be satisfied that their right to remain in the UK (and to therefore provide their services) is not going to be adversely affected. Equally, it isn't clear what a Brexit will mean for EU nationals currently working in the UK. Many potential solutions have been mooted, such as a compromise that would see current EU migrants given a set period of time to remain in the UK during which they can apply for citizenship, in return for UK citizens currently abroad to remain where they are on the same basis.
Simon Boss, real estate partner at Shoosmiths
Given that the commercial real estate deals flow has already been impacted by the uncertainty that abounded in the run up to the referendum, we may see some clients putting deals on hold in the wake of the leave result. Equally, we may see some pick up in transactions as some investors look to reduce their exposure to the UK market. For some funds and investors this may present an opportunity to acquire at an attractive price.
Since its creation, no Member State has ever left the European Union so we have no clear precedent in regards to what happens next and this is as much the case for the real estate sector as it is for the wider commercial arena.
Withdrawal from the EU could have major implications for the construction industry, which is already tackling a labour shortage. Tightened immigration control could now exacerbate this issue, given that a large percentage of EU immigrants work in the construction sector.
What many will be waiting most anxiously to determine though is how far foreign investment into British real estate will be impacted by our withdrawal from the EU. Will the position of Britain as a primary choice for commercial real estate investment in Europe suffer? Until some certainty returns to the market, this could well reduce the UK's reputation as a safe haven for real estate investment.
Corporate - Private Equity
Kieran Toal, corporate partner at Shoosmiths
We're now in uncharted waters - no member state has left the EU since its inception and how the economy and UK businesses will fare is hard to predict.
However in terms of the Private Equity market, we are dealing with the relative unknown, but investors still need to invest.
Admittedly there may be a slow start while buyers take stock but, once the wheels begin to turn, there is a plethora of cash-rich private equity houses with capital to invest and UK businesses with rich growth potential aren't going to lose their appeal overnight.
There may well be a shift in focus, with businesses which are particularly reliant on European markets becoming less attractive propositions. But for the most part, likelihood is that the inertia caused by uncertainty over the vote will slowly lift.
Commercial - Creative industries
Laura Harper, partner in the national Intellectual Property & Creative Industries group and head of the IP & Creative Industries at Shoosmiths
I think there is going to be concern and disappointment in the creative industries at this outcome.
There are many questions that will have to be answered around funding, free movement of people and collaboration across film, television and the performing arts.
Certainly it's no exaggeration to say regulation around Trade Mark protection is going to need redrafting creating uncertainty for companies here and abroad who own EU Trade Marks.
The 'out' vote means there is going to have to be a transitional period where companies who have an EU Trade Mark will potentially lose protection in the UK and they will need to audit their TM portfolios to identify the areas which will require attention to ensure they apply for the necessary national coverage.
As legal advisers we will provide advice on the basis that UK protection under EU trade marks will be eventually lost until we receive clarity on the transitional provisions to ensure that our clients' interests are fully protected.
The patent system has taken decades to negotiate - the Unified Patent and Unified Patent Court was due to be implemented in 2017. With this vote this will probably be delayed and add an extra layer of process to the new Unified Patent and Court procedure.