On 26 November 2016, the University of Warsaw Faculty of Law, together with the British Law Centre, hosted a timely conference that cast a searching light into the unfolding mystery of mysteries that is the UK’s impending departure from the EU.
With speakers who drew upon experience garnered in the courts, in government, academia and private practice, the conference succeeded in capitalising on these varied perspectives to identify some of the navigational challenges on the road ahead. Among the institutions represented on the day were the Court of Justice of the European Union, the EFTA Surveillance Authority, the Centre for European Reform (London), the University of Amsterdam, the University of Cambridge, the European University Institute, Queen Mary University of London, Queen’s University of Belfast, the University of Westminster and the University of Warsaw.
A broad range of complex issues were tackled. Panels were held on the implications of the UK’s looming withdrawal for our governance institutions, the opportunities and pitfalls confronting business and workers, and the ramifications of the rupture considered from the global perspective in terms of geopolitics, international trade, finance and taxation policy. With such an ambitious agenda, the task set was certainly a formidable one. But the arsenal of thinkers and policy-experts arrayed for the event proved more than equal to the task, and—at the very least—the Rumsfeldian objective was achieved: numerous and significant ‘unknown-unknowns’ were reduced to more amenable ‘known-unknowns’!
The presentations never failed to stir lively discussion among the audience in attendance and the speakers were kept on their toes in fielding challenging and wide-ranging questions coming from a range of national, institutional, social and political viewpoints. Professor Catherine Barnard of Cambridge University set the tone for the event with her simultaneously enlightening and entertaining look at the political landscape in the UK and the dilemmas posed by the Art. 50 procedure. Another highlight was Professor Maciej Szpunar (Advocate General of the CJEU), whose engaging presentation spearheaded wide ranging discussion on the ramifications of Brexit for commerce and industry.
Inspired by the farsightedness and keen observation informing much of the discussion on the day, everyone was left wanting more. Indeed, in light of the never-ending surprises, twists, and turns as we venture further down the road toward the UK’s departure, the time will no doubt soon be ripe to come together again for more thought-provoking discussion!