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Brexit: LSE expert says EU referendum was a ‘draw’ and UK exit will not happen

hhBritain may not leave the EU because no prime minister will want to preside over the break-up of the UK which would follow such a move, according to an expert on the UK constitution.

Dr Jo Murkens, an associate professor of law at the London School of Economics, said the EU referendum could be interpreted as a 2-2 draw because two of the UK’s four nations – Scotland and Northern Ireland – voted to Remain part of Europe.

This means it would be impossible for Britain to leave the EU without it causing the break-up of the United Kingdom, he said.

The scholar, an expert in constitutional law as well as Scottish independence, told the Standard: “[Brexit campaigners] wanted to take the country back, but there would be no country left if we leave the EU.”

Dr Murkens added: “I see no way in which the UK can leave the EU and survive.

“I can see no Prime Minister who would want to preside over the break-up of the United Kingdom.”

Ahead of last week’s referendum, experts pointed out that victory for Leave campaigners would not necessarily lead to a Brexit.

After the result, Prime Minister David Cameron said he accepted the will of the people as he conceded defeat in an emotional address from the steps of Number 10.

But he declined to trigger Article 50, the constitutional lever which would start Brexit’s two-year divorce proceedings, saying that would be a job for his successor.

Dr Murkens said Mr Cameron’s decision may arise from a reluctance to preside over the break-up of the UK.

He said that constitutionally the UK was not a “centralised” state and while Westminster was sovereign it could not hope to unilaterally pull Scotland and Northern Ireland out of the European Union without consequences.

For Northern Ireland Brexit would mean “unpicking” the Good Friday peace agreement, he added.

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon has already said a second independence referendum is now “very much on the table”. On a visit to Brussels on Wednesday she said: “If there is a way for Scotland to stay [in the EU] then I am determined to try and find that way.”

Dr Murkens said: “Can the UK survive outside the EU? I don’t see how, because there’s no political will in Scotland and Northern Ireland to remain in the UK if it leaves the EU.”

He also said a lack of pro-Brexit MPs in the House of Commons posed problems because it meant Parliament could still vote down legislation to trigger Article 50.

Dr Murkens has written several books including a “practical guide” to

He has a PhD and lists among research interests European Union law, European legal culture and history as well as constitutional and administrative law.

His latest book, From Empire to Union: Conceptions of German Constitutional Law since 1871, was published by Oxford University Press in 2013