A small change can have big consequences. Some of these changes may be unplanned and unpredictable. Some represent welcome developments that complement and contribute to long-running narratives of progress. Arguably, the recent publication of a reference to a harmonised standard in the L series of the Official Journal of the European Union belongs to the latter category. It may yet, however, prove to have unintended consequences that go beyond that which was originally envisioned.
Technical standards have long played a fundamental role in the regulation of the internal market. According to the regulatory technique of the “New Approach”, EU directives establish only the essential requirements of general interest of a product, while referring the detailed definition of technical aspects to private organizations composed of experts and representatives of the business sector, i.e. the European standard-setting organisations (ESOs). To this end, the European Commission makes a request to one of these ESOs and, where a standard satisfies the requirements set out in the request and in the corresponding Union harmonisation legislation, it publishes a reference to it in the Official Journal. Through this procedure, these standards elaborated by private European standardisation bodies are granted a presumption of conformity with the secondary EU law measures they are aimed at complementing. Consequently, they are endowed with the qualification of ‘harmonised standards’.
Recent developments in EU legislation (see Regulation EU) No 1025/2012) and in the case law (see, inter alia, Case C-171/11, Fra.bo. v DVGW) have progressively changed the view of standardization as a purely non-binding, private phenomenon. In particular, the James Elliott case established the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice with regard to the interpretation of harmonised standards in a preliminary reference under Article 267 TFEU, clarifying that harmonised standards shall be considered as “measures implementing or applying an act of EU law” and, therefore, “part of EU law”. This ruling of the Court has thus contributed to strengthen the claims of an unstoppable “juridification” of harmonized standards, fostering the debate on their legal qualification under EU law (as discussed here, here and here). Continue reading →
Brexit has been a personal matter for many British and European academics. In the last week, however, Brexit became even more personal for UK researchers based at the European University Institute in Florence. The UK government published its draft European University Institute (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 on 7th February. This is a Statutory Instrument promulgated under the executive power conferred by the ‘Henry VIII clause’ of section 8(1) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. The manner in which the UK’s withdrawal from the Convention establishing a European University Institute has been communicated seems to vindicate concerns expressed during the reading of the Withdrawal Bill. Grievances were expressed that the provision of wide-ranging executive power would undermine the quality of decision-making. This seems to be borne out by the Regulations, which explicitly confirm no impact assessment has occurred. This post will consider the serious legal and political concerns regarding the withdrawal from the Convention. The Regulations may be predicated upon a misinterpretation of international treaty law. This seems to have arisen from the idiosyncratic way in which the Convention is treated in UK domestic law. The post will conclude with some reflections on the implications of such a retreat from European co-operations outside the auspices of the EU institutions. Continue reading →
All is clear, then: CETA’s Investment Chapter is perfectly compatible with EU Law. According to Advocate General Bot, the agreement is wholly separate from the normative (as opposed to the factual) universe of EU law, and merely protects readily identifiable ‘foreigners’ investing in the EU in the same way as it protects readily identifiable ‘European’ investors in foreign lands. From what we know of the hearing, the Advocate General provides not much more than a useful summary of the talking points offered by the Council, the Commission and the vast majority of the 12 intervening Member States, remarkably united in a bid to save the EU’s new external trade and investment policy. Clearly, the pressure on the Court to follow suit will be enormous. And yet. It is true, CETA builds strong fences to make good neighbors. But let spring be the mischief in me: CETA cannot wall out what EU Law walls in.[i]
The EU’s exercise of its post-Lisbon competences over foreign direct investment (FDI) has been anything but smooth. In Opinion 2/15 the CJEU clarified the EU and Member State competences over the EU’s new generation free trade and investment agreements, resulting in the splitting of the EU‑Singapore agreement into a separate trade and investment agreement. Then, in Achmea the Court found investor-state arbitration (ITA) clauses under intra-EU BITs to be incompatible with EU law, which will result in the termination of almost 200 intra-EU BITs and the non-enforcement of ITA awards rendered under them within the EU. Now, everyone is anxiously awaiting the outcome of Opinion 1/17 – requested by Belgium under the insistencies of Wallonia – and whether the Investment Court System (ICS) under CETA is compatible with EU law. This opinion will not only affect the entry into force and conclusion of the trade and investment agreements with Canada, Singapore, Vietnam and Mexico, but it will have broader implications for the multilateral ISDS reform process and the EU’s investment policy.
Therefore, Advocate General Bot’s extensive opinion delivered on 29 January 2019 (first commentaries here and here) in which it found the CETA ICS to be compatible with EU law deserves scrutiny. I will only focus on the AG’s arguments concerning the exclusive jurisdiction of the Court of Justice over the definitive interpretation of EU Law. In a separate post, Harm Schepel will focus on the AG’s arguments on non‑discrimination. Continue reading →
In the domain of politics, trial and error are frequent occurrences. Through trial and error we tend to discover that political decisions, policy choices and even customary ways of doing things are no longer sustainable and thus in need of revision. There is nothing wrong in recognising mistakes or misjudgments and changing course. The doors of perception are not always fully open for human beings; information asymmetries, errors of judgement, ideological standpoints and self-interest often lead individuals to poor visualisations of the future and thus to imprudent actions. Continue reading →
Part II of the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement provides extensive protection of the rights in the United Kingdom and the EU-27 that EU citizens currently derive from Article 21 TFEU. However, the Agreement is silent on the preservation of the rights to vote and stand as candidates in municipal and European Parliament elections that EU citizens derive from Article 22 TFEU. This ossifies a conception of EU citizenship as a status of passive ‘juridical objectity’ to the detriment of a conception of the status as one of political self-determination. This means that following the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union the voting rights of EU citizens within the United Kingdom and UK citizens within the EU-27 will revert to the discretion of the national legal orders. Therefore, I will argue in this piece that it would be more normatively desirable for the European Union’s legislature to adopt measures in order to preserve these electoral rights for UK citizens. The first section below will detail the arguments for why this would be acceptable, before the second section considers the legal methods by which this could be implemented. Continue reading →
Some have assumed that one of the consequences of Brexit is that EU citizens, who can currently vote in all elections in the UK except for those which choose MPs in the UK Parliament, will lose that right once, and if, the UK leaves the EU. In fact, Brexit will not automatically mean EU citizens in UK will lose the right to vote in elections for local government and the devolved legislatures. That is because the right of EU citizens to vote in local government elections is set out in the UK’s own domestic legislation. Therefore, all the rights of EU citizens to vote in other member states arises out of EU law, because that right is now contained with UK law, the fact that UK will no longer be a member of the EU does not change that provision giving EU citizens the right to vote in local elections. In that respect, they will join the citizens of many other countries who, although they have no right deriving from a treaty to vote in UK elections, nevertheless have such a right. For example Commonwealth citizens, if they have leave to enter or remain in the UK, or do not require such leave, can register, vote, and stand in all UK elections even though there may not be any reciprocal right for UK citizens to vote in elections in that Commonwealth country. Continue reading →
The UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 30th March 2019 at midnight, Brussels time, by automatic operation of EU law (Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union(TEU) and, indeed, according to section 20(1) of the UK’s EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018. Consequently, the UK will not be participating in the May 2019 European Parliamentary (EP), Elections. Its 73 MEPs, including the 3 MEPs representing Northern Ireland, will be gone. This post appraises, first, the ramifications of Brexit for electoral rights of EU-27 citizens resident anywhere in the UK as a ‘third country’ and, second, the unique electoral predicament of residents in Northern Ireland. It argues that, unless Member States (MS) act promptly, hundreds of thousands of their citizens, qua Union citizens, stand to be disenfranchised this coming May – a democratic outrage that can and should be averted. Continue reading →
On 22 October 2018, New Europeans and the Federal Trust held the event ‘EU citizenship rights in the shadow of Brexit’. Since that date, the end-game of Brexit has gathered pace. On 14 November, the Draft Withdrawal Agreement and political declaration on the future relationship between the UK and the EU was published. The UK government announced that a ‘meaningful vote’ would be held in the House of Commons on 11 December, before postponing on the eve of the vote leading to the Prime Minister weathering a vote of no confidence by Conservative MPs and the announcement that the vote would be held in the third week of January. Part 2 of this Agreement provides extensive protection for the legal rights of UK nationals in the EU-27 and EU citizens in the UK; however, it may be argued that this ossifies a conception of EU citizenship as one of juridical objectity rather than political self-determination. At the European level, the Court of Justice of the European Union held in its Wightmanjudgment on 10 December that the United Kingdom would be free to unilaterally revoke its notification under Article 50 in accordance with its own constitutional requirements. Continue reading →
On 10 December 2018, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) delivered its judgment in the Wightman case on the revocation of a notification of an intention to withdraw from the EU under Article 50 TEU. Extraordinarily, the expedited process adopted by the CJEU upon the request of the referring Scottish Inner Court of Session has seen a judgment delivered barely three months after the original preliminary reference request was made in the domestic judgment on 21 September 2018. This is a reaction to the time-sensitivity of the political end-game of Brexit. The UK House of Commons had been scheduled to hold its ‘meaningful vote’ on adoption of the Withdrawal Agreement and political declaration on the future relationship on 11 December before the postponement of this vote by the government. This vote provided the factual background to the dispute in the case. The petitioners, including Scottish MPs, sought an answer to the question of whether legally there existed the third option of revocation rather than the dichotomy of either accepting the Withdrawal Agreement or else exiting the EU via the automatic operation of Article 50(3) TEU upon the elapse of the two-year time period on 29 March 2019. The full-court judgment has upheld the Advocate-General’s Opinion of 4 December that a Member State is free to revoke unilaterally a notification of intention to withdraw from the EU made under Article 50(2) TEU. Indeed, the final judgment has recognised a right to revoke that is even more receptive to the sovereign discretion of the withdrawing Member State than in the Opinion. This post will first summarise the judgment, before providing some comments thereupon. The Wightman decision has filled a lacuna in EU law; it remains to be seen whether this legal clarity will help to assuage the political chaos currently engulfing the United Kingdom. Continue reading →
A few days before the vote in the House of Commons on the Withdrawal Agreement, scheduled for December 11th, 2018, the debates are still vivid both in the United Kingdom and the European Union. The possibilities of holding a second referendum or stopping the withdrawal process have been repeatedly raised as alternatives should the Withdrawal Agreement be rejected by the House of Commons.
In this context, the pending case Wightman and others before the Court of Justice of the EU is of crucial importance. After the judgment of the UK Supreme Court in R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, which followed the submissions of counsel regarding the irrevocability of a withdrawal notification, the request for a preliminary reference from the Inner House of the Court of Session in Scotland could be a game changer. The Opinion of Advocate General Campos Sánchez-Bordona delivered on December 4th, 2018, invites the Court to rule in favour of the possibility for the UK to unilaterally revoke its notification of withdrawal, potentially opening up a third way. Continue reading →
The question whether it would be lawful for a Member State to revoke the notification of withdrawal from the EU before the two-year lapse (laid down in the third paragraph of Article 50 TEU) has, clearly, vital political, economic and social implications. Even though it cuts to the core of the philosophy governing the “ever closer Union” and the role that States and private individuals play in it, it’s also a matter to which the provision itself does not give a definite answer. Moreover, there is no case law issued on the matter by the CJEU that could contribute to the interpretation of the provision, while the UK Supreme Court seems to have posited the irrevocability of a withdrawal notification in the famous judgment issued in the case of R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [UKSC 2016/0196], foregoing the opportunity to use the preliminary reference mechanism. This absence of relevant CJEU case-law is expected to change after the Inner House of the Court of Session in Scotland decided on 21.09.2018 to refer a relevant preliminary question (see O. Garner’s analysis),
Part of the literature expressing interesting and strong legal arguments has suggested the answer to the above question to the positive (e.g. P. Craig, S. Peers, O. Garner, A. Sari). Arguing the contrary and attempting a contribution to the academic debate, this post’s point of view is based on the fundamental principle that the EU legal order constitutes an “autonomous legal system”, which is governed by its own rules enacted by its own institutions and interpreted by its established Court (C-26/62, Van Gend en Loos). It is, therefore, argued that the legal lacuna regarding the provision of revoking the withdrawal notification, leads, according to the interpretation of the provision set out in Article 50 TEU – in line with the letter and spirit thereof – to the conclusion that permitting such a revocation would contradict the principle of autonomy, regardless of whether it is unilateral or initiated upon consensus.
The present post is divided into two parts. In the first part I approach the interpretation of Article 50 TEU through its letter and spirit. In the second part I develop my argumentation concerning the critical role that the fundamental principle of autonomy should play when attempting to find the true meaning of the provision and to fill the legal gap concerning the right to revoke the withdrawal notification. Continue reading →
The Commission established OLAF (Office de Lutte Anti-Fraude), an administrative investigative service of the Commission, in 1999, in the wake of the fall of the Santer Commission, to strengthen the fight against illegal activities affecting the Union’s financial interests. One of the shortcomings in OLAF’s legal framework on the conduct of on-the-spot inspections, one of the service’s main investigative powers, is that it refers back to national law at various instances, requiring OLAF to cooperate with national authorities which operate on the basis of national law. A question that has lingered in academic circles for some time is when precisely – and to what extent – national law applies. In the recent Sigma Orionis case the General Court shed light on this issue. The General Court’s solution has been embraced by the Commission in its recently published proposal to amend the rules which govern OLAF’s investigations. The Commission´s proposal, as a result of the Court´s judgment, places OLAF shoulder to shoulder with other Union bodies – at least when it comes to the applicable law – in the business of enforcing Union law by means of inspections. Continue reading →
Today on 17 November 2017 the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission will proclaim the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR). Accused of going much too far by some and for falling disappointingly short by others the EPSR has caused a stir. This turmoil, however, has mainly been political, and the EPSR has received comparatively little attention from EU lawyers. Probably duly so because the EPSR, despite its political salience, is a soft law instrument without legally binding force and such instruments are rarely noticed.
Here, however, I argue that while its overall impact on the EU acquis in all likeliness will be underwhelming, the EPSR nevertheless deserves a closer look, especially when the context of the initiative and the CJEU’s case law on similar soft law measures are considered. A closer look also allows one to find at least some hope concerning its enforceability. The future of the EPSR depends largely on how it will be treated by the stakeholders, and here the judicial arenas should be activated if there is no meaningful enforcement actions following from the EU political actors and the member states. Continue reading →
I. Introduction: A New Initiative for UK nationals After Brexit?
On 11 January 2016, the European Commission registered a European Citizens Initiative to create a “European Free Movement Instrument”. The purpose of the Initiative is to lobby the European Union institutions to create a mechanism by which individuals may be directly granted the rights of free movement provided by EU citizenship, which is currently predicated upon nationality of a Member State in accordance with Article 20 TFEU. The proposers of the Initiative – the “Choose Freedom Campaign” – outline that their intention is not to reform the nature of Citizenship of the European Union; they concede that “the EU isn’t a government, and only Nation states can issue Citizenship”. Instead, their ambition is more limited – they argue that the European Union should institute a “Universal Mechanism” in order to provide individuals with a European Union passport: “we beg the Commission to delineate a method by which all Europeans of good standing may be granted a signal & permanent instrument of their status and of their right to free movement through the Union by way of a unified document of laissez-passer as permitted by Article (4) of Council Regulation 1417/2013, or by another method”.
Although the information on the Initiative on the Commission’s website and the accompanying press release do not explicitly link the putative Free Movement Mechanism to Brexit, it seems clear that such a competence for the European Union to directly issue EU passports would address the loss of rights that will be attendant to UK nationals losing the status of EU citizenship provided to them through nationality of a Member State once the United Kingdom has withdrawn in accordance with Article 50 TEU. Continue reading →
Is a harmonised technical standard (HTS) developed in response to the Commission’s mandate, a provision of EU Law? Up until recently, this issue has not been raised before the CJEU, much to academics’ surprise working in this field. Contractual litigation in James Elliott Construction became a trigger for the inquiry about the legal nature of HTS. The Court handed down its judgment on 27 October 2016, nine months after the Advocate General’s (AG) Opinion was published. Two blog posts discussed the AG’s Opinion and offered divergent analysis thereof.
The judgment, in essence, followed the AG’s Opinion resulting in the finding that an HTS is a part of EU law. The Court’s line of argumentation, as opposed to the AG’s, is remarkably cautious. In short, the Court regarded privately produced technical rule-HTS, as a provision of EU law. At the same time, the ECJ was extremely keen to prevent an HTS from having effects on a contractual relationship or on the Irish Law on Sale of Goods. Continue reading →
As is becoming a tradition with our blog, we present to you our top 10 most read posts of the last year. Blogging in 2016 on EU law was no doubt marked by Brexit. The result of the UK’s advisory referendum on EU membership on 23 June 2016, which returned a slim majority in favour of ‘Brexit’ provoked much discussion on this blog (10 posts so far) and elsewhere about the UK’s future relationship with the EU and the future of the EU itself. It is therefore no surprise that three of this year’s top 10 blog posts dissect this momentous moment. But Brexit was surely not the only topic that gathered the attention of our readers.
Keeping in mind that there is a certain bias in favour of older posts which have had more time to become popular, this is the 2016 list of most read posts of the year: Continue reading →
“Do you want the European Union to be able to prescribe the mandatory settlement of non-Hungarian nationals to Hungary even in lack of the consent of the National Assembly?”[i] – this is the question Hungarian voters will be asked to respond to on 2 October 2016. Speculations and verbal sparring have been strengthening about what may lie ahead, and not without reason. It appears that the possible legal and political implications of a valid vote could be broader than usual. At the least, referenda should pose concrete questions which invite an answer giving political institutions a well-circumscribed mandate. They should not give national governments a blanket authorisation and a political salvus conductus to freely choose what the will of the people requires. This contribution will look at how these principles fare in the upcoming referendum on the migrant quota and what the broader implications may be for both Hungary and the Union. Continue reading →
There seems to be a common assumption (see, among many others, here 3.6, here or here at 14:00) that there is a distinction between two kinds of « post-Brexit agreements », i.e. the withdrawal agreement (the divorce settlement) and the agreement regarding the future relationship between the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU). However, this distinction is, in fact, not very clear. It raises, in particular, several questions related to the legal basis and the nature (exclusive or not) of the withdrawal agreement. This contribution aims to clarify the distinction between these two agreements and identify the legal difficulties arising from their articulation. It will be argued that, due to some legal uncertainties, the negotiators of these agreements should be careful of their respective contents. Continue reading →
The British people voted by a majority of just over million people to leave the EU. Some have hailed this unprecedented decision as a return to sovereignty and a reassertion of British prominence on the global stage. Others mourn the outcome, believing it to represent a lurch towards splendid isolation and irrelevance. The vote laid bare a number of hard truths for both sides. While the close margin was largely anticipated, a negative and divisive campaign has meant that there is little common ground on which both the Remain and Leave camps can build. The results also exposed the extent of the inter-generational divide within the UK. Young voters chose by a large majority to remain while older voters chose to leave. This has led to the obvious recrimination that having reaped the benefits of EU membership for decades, older voters are depriving younger generations of these opportunities and deepening existing inequalities. The EU may, however, take some hope from this vote of confidence from the British youth.
Beyond the political, economic and social implications of the result within the UK and for the EU, the vote will have significant legal consequences. In the coming months, we will attempt to identify the legal questions that Brexit will entail. A few spring to mind: Is the UK bound to invoke the Article 50 procedure? (The political establishment in the UK appear to think not.) What happens to the international (trade) agreements concluded jointly by the EU and the UK? How will the border between Northern Ireland – which voted to Remain but will become an external border of the EU – and the Republic of Ireland be policed and what impact will this have on the Good Friday Peace Agreement? What – if any – immediate implications will this have for British MEPs, the CJEU, Commission officials, for the Council and – of course – for the British Presidency of the Council in 2017? Will Assange no longer have to fear for extradition to Sweden? What will happen to the more than one million UK citizens living and working in Europe? And what will happen to EU citizens living and working in the UK (including, for instance, professional football players)? How will the UK’s environmental law and policy be affected, as, for instance, REACH will no longer be applicable in the UK? How will the Brexit vote affect the development of the digital single market or the future funding of scientific research?
A particularly worrying feature of the UK referendum campaign, visible in the US Presidential Elections and elsewhere – is the vilification of ‘experts’ and the willing disregard of evidence. Nevertheless, as lawyers we must continue to rely on such evidence and expertise to negotiate the legal issues this vote will raise. All contributions to this blog on these legal implications are very welcome – informed expert opinion matters.