ESPLS Closeup of the EU Flag of twelve stars, with a small UK Union Flag covering a star, representing the UK's current status as an EU member state. A referendum in the UK is scheduled for 23rd June 2016, giving a choice between leaving or remaining in the European Union.

The UK’s EU Referendum on membership takes place on 23 June 2016 when the British electorate will decide on whether the United Kingdom (UK) will remain a member of the European Union (EU) or leave the EU.

Regardless of one’s personal position on the referendum, corporates, banks, insurance companies, financial services institutions and other enterprises from all industries and sectors within the UK, the other 27 Member States of the EU and around the world will be analysing the risks and considering contingency planning about how to prepare in case the majority of the British public vote in favour of the UK exiting the EU, i.e. the so-called “Brexit”.

The legal framework which sets out what would happen in case of a Brexit is only very basic and therefore leaves a lot of room for legal and commercial uncertainty. Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (the Treaty) provides that if a Member State decides to leave the EU, the European Council must be served with a termination declaration. Upon receipt of such notification, the EU will negotiate with such Member State “the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship”.

If no withdrawal agreement between the ceasing Member State and the EU is entered into, then two years after the European Council receives the termination declaration, the Member State will leave the EU. The Treaty provides that the European Council and the ceasing Member State can agree to extend such two year period. However, such an extension agreement would require the unanimous consent of all Member States.

The legal consequences of a potential Brexit and possible alternatives for the future relationship between the UK and the rest of the EU will impact virtually every business in the UK and those on the continent and elsewhere around the world doing business with the UK as well as the day to day lives of most UK residents and millions of nationals of other EU Member States currently residing in the UK or contemplating to work or study in the UK in the future.

We are uniquely placed to assist business to understand what a Brexit may mean. As a Top 10 law firm with 16 European offices as part of a global network of 45 offices in 21 countries and over 1500 lawyers, we have specialist teams in virtually every sector and geography that may be affected by a Brexit.

If the UK votes for a Brexit, given the financial significance and the breadth of the issues to be dealt with in the withdrawal agreement, we believe it is of utmost importance for all businesses to make sure that their voices are heard during the subsequent negotiation period.

Our Public Policy teams in Europe, and particularly in Brussels, and Washington, have decades of experience in advocating to advance the business objectives of our clients. While much of the focus of the discussion will be occurring within the EU, the US government undoubtedly will be engaged as well. As one of the only global law firm offering top tier Public Policy experience, we can provide for seamless and coordinated discussions with the relevant authorities. We can also make sure your voice is heard at the right time and in the right places.