According to a report released by city law firm White & Case, four out of five (84%) in-house lawyers believe that leaving the EU would not lower levels of unwanted regulation and more than half (52%) are concerned about the legal implications a Brexit could have.
Legal eagles are particularly worried that leaving the EU would spark several years worth of legal transactions, as businesses struggle to adjust to changing contract, data protection and employment issues.
Despite the foreseen complications, many of those surveyed had not started to prepare their business for the possibility of a Brexit, reasoning that, even if Britain did vote to leave the EU, the formal process of departing would not finalise for a few years to come.
"Brexit may come into sharper focus very quickly, with the referendum likely to be held in just a few months and, if the polls continue to move in the direction of leaving the EU, it would bring significant change and several years of legal upheaval, but most of our respondents concede that they are simply not prepared," aid David Crook, a partner at White & Case's London office.
Henning Berger, a partner at White & Case's Berlin office, added: "Whether the respondents are from UK or EU companies, or companies outside the EU, there’s a strong preference and belief that the UK should remain in the EU. To do otherwise is seen as counter-productive and damaging for all parties, wherever they are based."
Speaking at an event hosted by professional services firm EY last December, Mark Wood, former boss of Prudential Europe, estimated that, if Britain did vote to leave the EU, it would leave businesses trying to untangle themselves from deals for the following 15 years.
Wood later told City A.M. that, in the event of a Brexit, "the reality is that the pace at which we detached ourselves would be dictated by innumerable contractual relationships which currently exist between companies across borders".
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