Schrödinger’s Cake? Territorial Truths for Post-Brexit Britain

  • Ciarán BurkeEmail author
  • Ólafur Ísberg Hannesson
  • Kristin Bangsund
Part of the Netherlands Yearbook of International Law book series (NYIL, volume 47)


Any post-Brexit accord between the UK and the EU will redefine who exercises jurisdiction—and sovereign control—over the UK’s territory. Every engagement in an international agreement by a State may be viewed as entailing a loss of sovereignty, and in certain circumstances, an alienation of its power to regulate its territory. However, it may also be construed as an exercise of sovereignty. States enter such agreements precisely because they have the power to do so. A corollary thereof is the power to regain control over their own affairs. However, in an era when interdependence has superseded independence as the norm, we may question whether defining states based on territorial sovereignty is even appropriate anymore. Securing investment and trade requires international oversight, once integration surpasses a certain threshold. In such circumstances, a state’s territory becomes the subject of overlapping jurisdiction. Brexit will not come without a cost, and mitigating this may ironically involve further alienation of sovereignty, via parasitic attachment to the EU, whereby the UK may find itself forced to accept European norms without having a role in their elaboration. The alternative is a future involving an unambiguous reassertion of control, but with a virtual certainty of less prosperity. One may view the equation facing the UK as a balancing act between exclusive territorial control and economic prosperity.


Brexit Territoriality Jurisdiction Interdependence Sovereignty EEA 


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Copyright information

© T.M.C. Asser Press and the authors 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ciarán Burke
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ólafur Ísberg Hannesson
    • 2
  • Kristin Bangsund
    • 2
  1. 1.Friedrich Schiller University of JenaJenaGermany
  2. 2.EFTA Surveillance AuthorityBrusselsBelgium

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