Toward a ‘Global Britain’: The post-Brexit landscape

By Dr Clair Gammage, Lecturer in Law (University of Bristol Law School).

In the Prime Minister’s speech of 17 January 2017, in which the Brexit trade negotiation strategy was announced, Theresa May was keen to reassure the world that a ‘Global Britain’ would rise from the ashes of the now infamous June referendum. Outlining twelve core objectives to be pursued in the process of withdrawal from the EU once Article 50 has been triggered, May revealed little substantive detail about what the UK wants from the EU and, indeed, from the rest of the world. Underpinning the strategy is the first objective of “certainty” – certainty for industries, for workers, and for the general population. We now know that the European Communities Act will be repealed but EU law will be translated into the UK legal system. Of course, it is then the choice of Parliament to decide which laws stay and which laws go – presumably depending on the extent to which those laws reflect our Global British values according to the legislature. Will the first objective of “certainty” allay the fears of industry, the public sector, and the general population? The answer to this question rests entirely on the way in which the negotiations are handled from this moment on. So, what does the speech tell us in terms of the post-Brexit trading strategy?

There are two key aspects of the trade strategy going forward: withdrawal from the EU and a renegotiation of our terms with the EU; and, the UK’s trading relationship vis-à-vis the rest of the world which will take the form of WTO compatible free trade agreements (FTAs). FTAs are economic spaces in which the countries to the arrangement reduce tariffs on substantially all the trade that falls under the agreement but each individual member retains its own external tariff with other countries on those goods. The first and second limbs of the trade strategy are interrelated and once Article 50 has been triggered a new form of foreign policy-making that I have (rather tongue-in-cheek) coined “Global Britain external relations law” will begin to manifest. Continue reading

When Christmas drinks go wrong – Vicarious liability and the ‘course of employment’ test in the High Court

By Prof Paula Giliker, Professor in Comparative Law (University of Bristol Law School).

The office Christmas party is something many of us will have enjoyed recently.  In the words of Judge Cotter QC in the recent High Court decision in Bellman v Northampton Recruitment Ltd [2016] EWHC 3104 (QB), it is an occasion “no doubted dreaded by some and an annual highlight for others” (para 14).  Needless to say, in most cases, alcohol will be freely flowing and sadly things may be said or done regretted bitterly the next day.

In the case of the Northampton Recruitment Ltd 2011 Christmas party, it was not the party itself (held at the Collingtree Golf Club) which proved eventful, but the “after party” held in the lobby of the Collingtree Hilton Hotel in the course of which the managing director of the company, John Major, punched an employee (Clive Bellman) twice during the course of a disagreement at 3am. Mr Bellman’s head hit the marble floor, leading to brain damage. By the time of the trial, his condition was such that he was not able to litigate or manage his affairs and brought his claim as a protected party. To add to the tragedy, the parties in question had been friends since childhood. The assault, no doubt fuelled by alcohol, had been provoked by a work-related dispute, although discussions at the Hilton Bar had covered a variety of matters. The question for the court was whether the company would be held vicariously liable for the tort of its managing director. Continue reading

December’s European Council meeting: No country for Social Europe

By Mr Konstantinos Alexandris Polomarkakis, PhD Candidate and Teaching Assistant (University of Bristol Law School).

customtileThe European Council is among, if not the most important of, the pivotal institutions of the EU, mapping out its direction for the near term. Its meetings act as the wayfinding system for the EU policies that are to be drafted and discussed in the coming months, affecting crucial issues that have been considered by the Member States’ leaders as pertaining to the Union’s top priorities. It sets the tone that the Member States as well as the rest of the EU institutions should follow.

In that regard, the latest European Council meeting in Brussels on December 15 touched upon the most pressing issues Europe is faced with at the moment. Managing migration flows and the Union’s asylum policy, ensuring an effective application of the EU-Turkey statement, deepening the common European security and defence policy while at the same time complementing the pertinent NATO mechanisms, the negotiation process on a settlement for Cyprus, as well as the future of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement in the aftermath of the Dutch referendum in April, and the situation in Syria, all were at the spotlight of the summit. Even Brexit was dealt with by the means of a declaration following an informal meeting of the EU27.

On top of these issues, a whole section of the meeting’s conclusions was dedicated to what was designated as ‘economic and social development, youth’. This is, at first glance, a welcome addition, considering the uncomfortable position the EU is currently sitting at, with high levels of discontent, and, consequently detachment from the European project by its citizens, manifested in the recent public opinion polls and the rise of –primarily far-right- populism in its territory.  Social Europe could be a vehicle, which if employed effectively, has the potential to revive the long-lost interest towards and engagement with the EU. Continue reading

The Ugandan Bridge Schools & Education as Freedom

By Dr Foluke Adebisi, Teaching Associate (University of Bristol Law School).

© CCTV Africa

© CCTV Africa

On the 4th of November 2016, in Bridge International Academies Ltd v. Attorney General Ugandaa Uganda High Court judge ordered the closure of 63 Bridge International Schools. The judge cited the use of unqualified teachers, unsanitary learning conditions as well as the fact that the schools were not properly licensed as reasons for ordering the closures. The court also considered the poor quality of education provided in these schools.

Bridge schools are backed by Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. The schools claim to have 12,000 students in Uganda and 100,000 students across Africa, mainly. According to their teaching model statement, teachers read scripted lessons from a tablet. The content of learning is standardised and not adapted to individual needs. It is suggested that this is an effective low-cost way of providing ‘quality’ education. Nevertheless, Bridge Schools in Africa have been the subject of much controversy. The UN has suggested that funding such schools could contribute to violations of international law. Those who suffer the most from this are poor Ugandans, they are caught at the intersection of a convergence of disadvantage: government education is unreliable, often unsanitary, and almost always underfunded. Private education is unaffordable and inaccessible for most Ugandans. Yet Bridge education is barely education at all. Continue reading

EU Non-Discrimination Law in the Courts. Approaches to Sex and Sexualities Discrimination in EU Law

By Dr Jule Mulder, Lecturer in Law (University of Bristol Law School).

img_6534In January 2017, my first monograph entitled EU Non-Discrimination Law in the Courts will be published with Hart Publishing/Bloomsbury. The monograph compares the Dutch and German application of EU non-discrimination law focusing on discrimination on grounds of sex and sexual orientation. It includes an analysis of the case law on direct as well as indirect discrimination and covers the cases which are linked to Article 157 TFEU, the Framework and Recast Directives (excluding equal pay for equal value and social security law).

Since the year 2000, the material and personal scope of EU non-discrimination law has been significantly broadened and has challenged national courts to introduce a comprehensive equality framework into their national law to correspond with the European standard.

The book provides a multi-layered culturally informed comparison of juridical approaches to EU (in)direct sex and sexualities discrimination and its implementation and application in Germany and the Netherlands. It examines how and why national courts apply national non-discrimination law with a European origin differently, although the legislation derives from the same set of EU law and the national courts have to respect the interpretive competence of the Court of Justice of the European Union. As such, it provides an in-depth analysis of the national legal and non-legal context which influences and shapes the implementation and application of non-discrimination law and reveals how some of these factors affect the interpretation and application of national non-discrimination law with a European origin. Continue reading

What is the point of Business?

By David Hunter, Consultant, Charity & Social Enterprise Department (Bates Wells Braithwaite LLP) and Knowledge Exchange Fellow (University of Bristol Law School)[1] and Ms Nina Boeger, Senior Lecturer in Law and Director of the Centre for Law and Enterprise (University of Bristol Law School).

img-20161127-wa0001Businesses are, in some respects, like cement. They are an integral part of the society we inhabit, and yet for the most part invisible to us as tangible entities. We give them little thought, but our lives would be very different were we to wake up to a world without either.

In April 2016, the UK government did invite us to think about the nature of business though as part of what it called a Mission-led Business Review. It set up an Advisory Panel and ran a public consultation and, seven months on, the Panel has reported back to the government with its recommendations[2]. The timing is interesting, with the review commencing when David Cameron was still Prime Minister, before the UK’s Referendum on EU membership and the US election, but the publication of the Panel’s findings coming when those events have demonstrated a clear sense of public discontent with the status quo.

What was the Review about, what is a ‘mission-led business’ and what are the likely responses to and impact of the Panel’s findings? Continue reading

Same old, same old: The European Court of Justice’s fixation with the Plaumann test for individual concern

By Mr Konstantinos Alexandris Polomarkakis, Graduate Teaching Assistant and PhD Candidate (University of Bristol Law School).

© Trevor Parker

© Trevor Parker

In its Judgment in Ackermann Saatzucht and Others v Parliament and Council, joined Cases C-408/15 P and C-409/15 P, EU:C:2016:893, the European Court of Justice was given yet another chance to set out its position on the admissibility criteria, and more specifically on that of individual concern, for individuals to bring an action for annulment under the fourth paragraph of Article 263 TFEU.

This Judgment follows its recent rulings in T&L Sugars (C-456/13 P), Stichting Woonpunt (C-132/12 P), Stichting Woonlinie (C-133/12 P), Telefónica (C-274/12 P) and Inuit (C-583/11 P). The cases at hand were decided by the ECJ on appeal, lodged by two groups of German and Dutch operators active in the field of plant breeding, following the rejection by two orders of the General Court (in cases T-559/14 and T-560/14) of their  annulment actions against Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 511/2013 establishing the standard import values for determining the entry price of certain fruit and vegetables into the EU’s internal market.

The annulment of the said regulation was sought on the basis of it being incompatible with the content of Regulation (EC) No 2100/94 and the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants. These laid down the breeders’ exemption granting plant breeders unrestricted access to protected varieties without a duty to disclose any information, something that was allegedly hampered by the entry into force of Article 4(3) of Regulation 511/13, which bestowed upon them an obligation of disclosure. Nonetheless, the said operators’ actions for annulment were dismissed by the General Court as inadmissible due to the lack of individual concern. In their appeal to the ECJ, they contested this finding, pleaded that the Regulation runs counter to higher ranking rules, and, also, claimed that because of the inadmissibility of their action, their right to effective judicial protection has been impinged. Continue reading

A law and political science analysis of the reform of EU public procurement rules

By Dr Albert Sanchez-Graells, Senior Lecturer in Law (University of Bristol Law School).

olykke-reformationMy most recent edited collection has now been published:
GS Ølykke & A Sanchez-Graells (eds), Reformation or Deformation of the EU Public Procurement Rules (Edward Elgar, 2016). It features contributions from a gender-balanced group of 16 young political science and EU economic law scholars based in 9 different EU/EEA Member States, including a number based at top UK universities. It is the result of a two year research project generously funded by the Copenhagen Business School and the Danish Gangstedfonden.

Using an innovative  interdisciplinary ‘law and political science’ methodology, the book carries out a critical assessment of the reform of the EU public procurement rules in the period 2011-2014. It does this by a detailed assessment of the initial Commission proposal for new rules, the travaux preparatoires behind it, as well as the several inter-institutional negotiation and compromise texts that resulted in the 5th generation of EU public procurement directives in 2014. Continue reading

Culture in the banking regulators: the need for challenge

By Dr Holly Powley, Lecturer in Law (University of Bristol Law School).

city-of-london-1In the aftermath of the financial crisis, a debate has been raging about the culture of financial services institutions – both in terms of how individuals working with financial institutions conduct themselves, but also on attitudes towards risk-taking within these institutions. Given that banks are now considered to provide consumers with a service that is essential to the operation of the modern economy, this is an important debate.

However, those tasked with regulating and supervising the banking sector haven’t escaped this scrutiny either. If the UK is to avoid a future financial crisis of the magnitude experienced between 2007 and 2009, there also needs to be a culture change within the institutions tasked with overseeing the UK’s financial services sector. The regulatory bodies need to be capable of challenging themselves, their policies, and the institutions they are tasked with supervising: they need to question the status quo. This means a move away from the ‘light touch’ approach that encompassed the Financial Services Authority’s (FSA) regulatory philosophy, avoiding ‘box ticking’ and introducing the exercise of judgement when making decisions about the supervision and regulation of the banking sector. Before the financial crisis, regulators didn’t challenge the conventional wisdom. It was believed that markets were stable, and that institutions were unlikely to fail. There was very little focus on financial stability issues, a point reflected by the fact that (as highlighted in the report on HBOS’s failure) only one of 61 issues discussed by the FSA’s board in the build up to the crisis related to financial stability. The crisis itself highlighted the flaws in that approach. To avoid this in the future, regulators have to ask difficult questions of themselves, and of the regulated sector. Continue reading

Brexit and Parliament: Doubting John Finnis’s Dualism

By Prof Julian Rivers, Professor of Jurisprudence (University of Bristol Law School).

© Nick Weall

© Nick Weall

The news that the appeal will be heard by a full panel of 11 Justices of the Supreme Court confirms that the High Court’s ‘Brexit Judgment’ is of the highest constitutional significance. So the attention devoted to the judgment by eminent constitutional lawyers is hardly surprising. One powerful argument against the judgment, which is attracting a growing number of supporters, is made by Professor John Finnis in papers for the Judicial Power Project.

Finnis argues that the court mistakenly assumes that EU rights are ‘statutory rights enacted by Parliament’. On his view, the European Communities Act 1972 simply provides a means for making EU law rights enforceable in English law; they are not ‘statutory rights’ as such. Finnis draws an analogy with double-tax treaties. These serve to relieve individuals with connections to more than one country from being taxed twice on the same income. In order for this to apply, both state parties must maintain the international agreement. If one of them gives notice to rescind, as they are typically entitled to do under the treaty, the immunity lapses. In dualist systems such as the UK, there is thus an asymmetry between the creation and removal of rights. There are two conditions precedent for the enjoyment of any new right: an international treaty conferring that right, and an Act of Parliament giving effect to that treaty in domestic law. Both elements are needed to create the right, but if either condition precedent fails, so does the right. The mere fact that Parliament has to provide the domestic conduit does not stop the Government from turning off the international tap.

I am not convinced that this argument works in the context of the UK-EU relationship. Continue reading