“London had fallen”: Brexit reflections from a Georgia Law Global Extern

It’s our pleasure today to publish this post by Shirley Kathryn Griffis (below right), a member of the Georgia Law Class of 2017. Katie, as she’s known, spent Spring 2016 as  in our study abroad at Oxford University, and then began her second summer as a Global Externship Overseas in the London law firm Maples Teesdale. Reflecting on last week’s “Brexit” vote, Katie writes:

KatieThe first thing I thought on Friday morning was, “this can’t have happened.” It was a sentiment shared by almost all of my colleagues at Maples Teesdale’s London office, where I am spending my summer Global Externship Overseas. Together, we spent Friday morning pulling up articles, dusting off our United Kingdom constitutional law practice guides, and sharing legal theories on how the Brexit vote might be undone. It seemed that through the 51.9% to 48.1% vote to leave the European Union, London had fallen.

And we were in denial:

“The referendum is not legally binding.”

“Parliament can override.”

“Scotland won’t accept this. They can block it.”

“Cameron didn’t invoke Article 50, there’s still a chance.”

“Did you see the petition for the second referendum? Three million signatures! This won’t stand.”

The mood in London quickly turned from denial to anger when Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the results of the referendum must be respected, and the members of Parliament largely agreed. I chimed in with other voices from London on social media, asking how this could have happened. The feeling in London is that there is so much to be angry about that it is hard to know where to start, and whom to blame. Londoners started circulating a secessionist petition, there was a rally in Trafalgar Square to show solidarity with Europe, and everyone is talking about immigrating to Ireland.

London has a long way to go before accepting the reality of Brexit. The financial markets are reeling. The pound has plummeted, hitting a 31-year low in just four hours, and four major companies—Prudential Insurance, HSBC, BT and Royal Bank of Scotland—announced they were considering major staffing changes to include relocation or mass downsizing. As the financial capital of the United Kingdom, most major businesses in London have structured themselves to operate in accordance with European Union law and procedure. It is for this reason that London’s “stay” vote was 70% in favor—the European Union is vital to the survival of London’s economy.

FlagsThis is my second summer working for Maples Teesdale in London. I have always envisioned myself returning to London to practice after I graduate from the University of Georgia School of Law, but I worry now about whether that will be a possibility. It’s still uncertain what jobs, even industries, are safe, and how long the current financial crash will continue. I stand by my colleagues here in London, hoping that no matter how far London falls, it won’t take long at all to get back up and carry on.

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