Tag Archives: EU law

The phoney war is over. Theresa May has triggered Article 50. The clock is ticking. But clarity and legal certainty remain elusive

By Prof Phil Syrpis, Professor of EU Law (University of Bristol Law School)

In her letter to Donald Tusk the Prime Minister outlined the UK’s starting position in negotiations with the EU. The EU Council of Ministers responded by producing draft negotiating guidelines (to be confirmed by the European Council at the end of April). These guidelines create the framework within which negotiations on withdrawal, and those on the future relationship between the UK and the EU, will occur. Meanwhile, a White Paper on the Great Repeal Bill was presented to Parliament, promising on the one hand to repeal the European Communities Act (ECA) and end the supremacy of EU law in the UK, and on the other to convert the acquis communautaire into UK law, so that ‘EU-derived rights’ (as we will need to get used to calling them) will, as far as possible, be unaffected.

The opening exchanges between the UK and EU have generated a lot of comment. Much of it has focused on the unlikely subject of Gibraltar (Michael Howard’s crass evocation of the Falklands conflict will have done nothing to lower simmering tensions). In relation to the White Paper, most attention has been devoted to the role of Parliament and the devolved assemblies. Rather less attention has been paid to many of the EU law aspects. In this short note, I focus on those. I first consider what new light has been shed on the way in which the Article 50 negotiations will proceed, drawing attention to the host of issues which remain unanswered. I then consider the EU law questions raised by the repeal of the ECA, and the conversion of the acquis into UK law. Michael Ford has already commented on this blog on the applicability of judgments of the European Court of Justice in the post-Brexit era; so there is no more on that subject here.

My overarching concern is that the Government, in particular in the White Paper, has failed to provide a clear sense of the size of the task which lies ahead. It is impossible to know whether this is because the Government itself does not appreciate the magnitude of the challenge, or because it is trying to conceal the difficulties. The Government has, for months, struggled to articulate just what Brexit might mean, and has made a series of disparate promises which a range of different constituencies have, if so minded, been able to rely on, or cling to. It will now start making hard choices. It has not prepared the ground well. Continue reading

Reflections on the ‘Three Knights Opinion’ and Article 50 TEU

By Miss Rosie Slowe LLM, Research Collaborator (University of Bristol Law School).

On 17 February 2017, Bindmans LLP published an Opinion that it had solicited from several leading authorities on EU law concerning Article 50 TEU. The so-dubbed ‘Three Knights Opinion’ put forward compelling legal arguments in support of why an Act of Parliament at the end of the Article 50 negotiation process is necessary in order to ensure that Brexit occurs in accordance with domestic and, by extension, EU law. These contentions, and Professor Elliot’s rebuttal, warrant careful consideration, not least because of the constitutional significance they pose.

The Opinion was asked to address three questions: whether it was a ‘constitutional requirement’, within the meaning of Article 50(1), that Parliament authorise the final terms of any deal reached with the EU; whether the UK is able to validly notify its intention to withdraw from the EU, pursuant to Article 50(2), subject to such a requirement; and the legal consequences if that requirement is not satisfied. It is submitted, for reasons that will become apparent, that the latter question of consequence is effectively answered by examining the possibility of conditionality being attached to notice under Article 50, and this post accordingly considers the two issues together. Continue reading

Law and Politics in the Supreme Court

By Prof Phil Syrpis, Professor of EU Law (University of Bristol Law School).

By a majority of 8 to 3, the Supreme Court held that in light of the terms and effect of the European Communities Act 1972, ‘the prerogative could not be invoked by ministers to justify giving Notice under Article 50… Ministers require the authority of primary legislation before they can take that course’ (para. 101). Within hours, the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill,[1]  authorising the Prime Minister to trigger Article 50, was published. It passed through the House of Commons unscathed yesterday. A White Paper, setting out the Government’s plan for Brexit, such as it is, has also been published.[2]

The purpose of this post is very specific. My aim is not to analyse the judgment, the Bill or the White Paper. That has been done elsewhere. Instead, my aim is to begin to explore the relationship between law and politics, and between Parliament, the executive and the judiciary, taking as a starting point the judgments in the Supreme Court. The judges are, at times, careful not to trespass into the political realm. Nevertheless, their findings are informed and influenced, in a number of ways, by the political context. There are, moreover, important differences between the approaches adopted by the majority and the minority, including differences relating to the judges’ understanding of the legal process of Brexit.

It is hoped that inconsistencies between and within the judgments will provoke further academic consideration of the extent to which Courts should intrude into, or take cognisance of, the political realm; and of the extent to which constitutional safeguards are matters of substance or form. But, at this febrile political time, the clearest conclusion is that by failing to answer key questions of law, the Court has done a disservice to Parliament, thereby contributing, not towards the provision of a clear framework within which politicians are able to address the realities of Brexit, but to the pervasive sense of confusion. Continue reading

Article 50, the Supreme Court judgment in Miller ~ and why the question of revocability matters more than ever

By Miss Rosie Slowe LLM, Research Collaborator (University of Bristol Law School).

With the Supreme Court having ruled on 24 January 2017 that Parliament must have a say in the triggering of Article 50 TEU, the ensuing debate regarding the process for exiting the EU has revolved around what is politically considered the most desirable ‘type’ of Brexit, and whether MPs can restrict the Government’s negotiation position. This post puts forward the hypothesis that such debates may be irrelevant because, in the event that negotiations fail, the UK has no guaranteed input on the terms of its withdrawal from the EU. At the heart of this problem is the still unanswered question whether an Article 50 notification is revocable (Prof Syrpis).

In R (on the application of Miller and another) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2017] UKSC 5, the Supreme Court rejected the Government’s appeal and upheld the High Court’s ruling that the royal prerogative cannot be relied on to trigger Article 50.  Rather than reliance on executive power, an Act of Parliament is required to authorise ministers to give notice of the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU. This is based on the premise that such notification under Article 50(2) would inevitably, and unavoidably, have a direct effect on UK citizens’ rights by ultimately withdrawing the UK from the EU. However, this assumption warrants exploration. 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

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

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

EU rights as British rights

By Dr Eirik Bjorge, Senior Lecturer in Public International Law (University of Bristol Law School).

eca-1972-imageAccording to a carefully argued contribution by Professor Finnis in the Miller debate, rights under the European Communities Act 1972 ‘are not “statutory rights enacted by Parliament”’; they are only ‘rights under the treaty law we call EU law, as it stands “from time to time”’. Finnis thus purports to have broken the chain of the claimant’s main argument.

In that connection, Finnis considers the somewhat recherché example of taxation treaties and the Taxation (International and Other Provisions) Act 2010 to be a useful analogy. The point of the present contribution is to suggest that a more natural analogy would be the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Like the ECA 1972, the HRA 1998 conditions the legal relationship between citizen and state in an overarching manner and deals with fundamental constitutional rights. There is also particularly instructive judicial authority on the HRA 1998 specifically on question of the nature of its relationship with the international treaty whose obligations it mirrors. Continue reading

Maximising the Legitimacy of the EU’s Regulation of Geoengineering Research

By Dr Janine Sargoni, Lecturer in Law (University of Bristol Law School).*

© NASA

© NASA

In what has been described as ‘nature’s own great climate experiment’, the 1992 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines provided scientists with data to refine their climate models.   After the eruption, average global temperatures dropped temporarily as particles released into the stratosphere increased the Earth’s albedo.   Solar Radiation Management (SRM) – or ‘reflecting sunlight to cool earth’ – developed notionally thereafter as a means of reducing global average temperatures resulting from increased greenhouse gases.

Pinatubo provided all kinds of data which helped increase the accuracy of climate models eventually predicting with relative certainty the temperature-cooling climatic impacts of SRM, whilst leaving relatively uncertain – or unknown – the extent of environmental impacts, such as those arising from changing patterns of rainfall.  The current limitations of models in telling us about localised environmental uncertainties could be reduced if research into the effects of SRM took place outdoors, or in the field, so to speak.  But that research would actually constitute deployment which itself would generate uncertain environmental effects.   Given these significant constraints it is not possible to establish to what extent SRM technologies are effective or reliable and therefore it is imperative that a legitimate regulatory process is secured in which decisions about its research and deployment can be taken.

This new article* sets out how risky SRM field research might be regulated in the EU in such a way as to maximise legitimacy.  It suggests that under particular conditions the EU could delegate to an independent agency powers to undertake what I call an incorporated risk assessment; an assessment in which science and politics, expertise and lay-knowledges are combined.  Legitimacy would be maximised because the EU’s regulatory framework relating to the risks of SRM field research would be legal and also responsive, flexible, deliberative and inclusive. Continue reading

When is an applicant an applicant? — About the potential abuse of non-discrimination law, ‘Equality Law-Hoppers’ and the EU equality law directives

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

sparbuch-DW-WebWelt-SchwerinIn its Kratzer judgment of 28 of July 2016,[i] the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) responded to the German Federal Labour Court’s preliminary reference concerned with the question what qualities are required to be an applicant who seeks access to employment, to self-employment or to occupation within the meaning of Article 3(1)(a) of the Framework Directive 2000/78/EC and Article 14(1)(a) Recast Directive 2006/54/EC. In it, the CJEU essentially rules that unserious applicants who do not actually seek employment but only apply for the purpose of claiming compensation do not fall under the scope of the directives and their respective articles. The case does not mention Article 3(1)(a) Race Directive 2000/43/EC but there is no reason to believe the conclusion would be any different regarding its application to employment and occupation.

The brief judgment, which was decided without prior opinion of the Advocate General, is unlikely to stir-up the European-wide debate on equality and non-discrimination law and may seem all too obvious to many commentators. However, for the German legal context, the judgment is very significant because it approves the national courts’ case law on the so called Equality Law-Hoppers (AGG-Hoppers) and leaves significant discretion to the national courts to counteract apparent as well as alleged abuses of the General Equal Treatment Act (Allgemeine Gleichbehandlungsgesetz, hereafter AGG)[ii] implementing the EU equality directives. Continue reading