Withdrawal from the EU and the Law (Brexit)

Course summary

The UK's decision to leave the European Union raises a myriad of legal questions. These include the process of leaving; the legacy of membership, in particular acquired rights and continued relevance of EU law in 'old' cases; the new relationship: future trade relations, but also cooperation in security and foreign affairs matters and criminal law; the position of Scotland in Europe: special deal or no deal or independence?; the constitutional challenges within the UK, including parliamentary participation and implementation through legislation, in particular the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill; and the wider implications of Brexit for cooperation in Europe, in particular for human rights. 

This course aims to address these questions in ten seminars. It will expose students to the political background to Brexit; the EU processes involved, which raise important questions of EU constitutional law; single market law; the law of the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice; and EU external relations law. Moreover, students will deal with the UK's constitutional arrangements, which are being challenged by Brexit, in particular parliamentary sovereignty and devolution.

At the end of the course students will have a deep insight into a number of the unprecedented legal questions raised by Brexit. They will have gained a deep understanding of what it means to be an EU Member State, in particular where the single market and other forms of close cooperation are concerned and how EU law is intertwined with domestic law. They will also be able to appreciate the complex challenges for the UK's own constitutional arrangements. 

The course content will cover: 

  1. The political and legal background to Brexit 
  2. The process of leaving the EU: withdrawal agreement and transition. 
  3. The legacy of Brexit: acquired rights, etc 
  4. The future relationship between the UK and the EU: trade 
  5. The future relationship: other forms of cooperation 
  6. Brexit and the UK constitution: internal implementation, parliamentary sovereignty, and devolution. 
  7. Brexit and rights 

The students' learning experience will benefit from the topicality of the course. This is of course equally a challenge as the Brexit negotiations will be ongoing and will throw up new legal questions while the course is running, so that there may not be a lot of academic commentary available at the time certain topics will be discussed. The course will be taught in ten seminars covering the topics outlined in differing intensity.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students should be able to:

  • demonstrate knowledge that covers and integrates most areas of EU law and some areas of UK constitutional law;
  • apply knowledge, skills and understanding in using a range of research skills and materials that are informed by the constantly changing questions surrounding Brexit;
  • apply critical analysis, evaluation and synthesis to the forefront issue of Brexit;
  • use a wide range of routine (e.g. library research) and a range of advanced skills (research with primary sources; news items; foreign sources) to communicate research findings in presentations and essays;
  • take responsibility for their own work by preparing weekly contributions to forum discussions, and by writing a blog post and their essay individually.


4000 word essay (80%); 1000 word blog post (20%).

Terms and conditions

Please note the University reserves the right to make variations to the contents of programmes, including the range of courses offered, and the available choice of courses in any given year may change.

Find out more about the University's terms and conditions