We will find out soon enough ~ or maybe not. Some final thoughts on Brexit before the trigger of Art 50

I have spent the last 24 hours in London, attending two very different academic events with only one common theme: Brexit and its long shadow over all areas of law. As a result of the discussions in both events, I have become more painfully aware than ever before (and also rather depressed) about two things.

First, the existence of (explicit and/or implicit) mutually-incompatible redlines on both the UK and the EU negotiating position that, by any objective assessment, make it extremely difficult (to understate this point) that the withdrawal negotiation process due to start on 29 March 2017 will yield significant progress (either at all, or any time soon) -- unless and until the parties significantly deviate from their stated (or expected) demands, which does not seem politically feasible at the moment.

Second, the wild divergence of expectations between UK-based and EU-based scholars and practitioners (which is possibly due to a pragmatic vs a principled approach to the analysis of Brexit and its implications) concerning the possibility of actually (ever) finding legally workable solutions to a myriad issues without requiring long transitional periods leading to not less long-term significant constitutional changes, and a whole host of renegotiation of international agreements (in particular concerning WTO law).

On the whole, I think that the process about to unfold will unavoidably damage EU law as a system. It seems to me unavoidable because, if EU law is upheld, it will be the prime constraint on the (EU's) flexibility to strike a withdrawal deal acceptable to the UK. On the contrary, if EU law is not upheld or if its application is fudged, its effectiveness will be eroded and the European project will become (or deepen its character of being) political rather than based on the rule of law. Finally, in what I consider the worse case scenario, even if Brexit is eventually abandoned or reversed, the strain put on the legal foundations of the EU's legal system during the withdrawal negotiations may well damage the foundations to the point of collapse (in the mid to long run).

I cannot avoid being extremely pessimistic about the developments that we will witness in the next two years or so, and about their long-lasting effects for the EU legal order. I am not sure we are about to see a constitutional moment for EU law, but rather a deformative episode from which I (still) doubt the rule of law will emerge reinforced. As a legal scholar, this saddens me. And I also still wish I got all of this wrong. I guess we will will find out soon enough ~ or maybe not.