MJIEL Vol 16 Issue 2 2019 - Article 4
Brexit and the UK’s Commitments at the World Trade Organization:
The Challenges in Effecting a Legal Divorce from the European Union
James J. Nedumpara and Sandeep Thomas Chandy
ABSTRACT: In a referendum held on June 23, 2016 the people of the United Kingdom (UK) decided to leave the European Union (EU) – an event more popularly known as ‘Brexit’. Apart from the political turmoil and the economic uncertainty the Brexit decision created, it triggered discussions in Geneva on the changes within the World Trade Organization (WTO) legal system for implementing this political decision. For the first time since the signing of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the creation of the WTO, a Member was exiting a customs union setting in motion a series of novel and unprecedented legal issues. One of the key issues was the modification of the schedule of commitments and concessions of both the UK and the EU, under the GATT, General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), and the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA). Under the WTO Agreement, a Member has to seek certification of the changes effected to the Schedules of Concessions. Considering the fact that certification processes can be delayed by years on account of Member objections, the article explores the options available to the UK and the EU to conduct trade with its partners in the interim without facing legal challenges. Among other issues, this article aims to highlight the potential hurdles that the UK and the EU trade negotiators may face in the near future while implementing Brexit.

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