The Conservative Party has published its Manifesto in advance of the General Election. On the issue of the UK’s continued adherence to international human rights obligations, it says this: Continue reading
Five years ago we posted a piece entitled ‘Church and State III – the European dimension’. Perhaps the title was misleading, but some people still don’t seem to be able to understand the difference between the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights, so the following is an updated version, without the references to freedom of religion and belief.
Introduction: the great divide
In the not-too-distant future, the Prime Minister will trigger Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union and the UK will begin the process of withdrawal. EU law will cease to apply to the UK when the withdrawal agreement enters into force or two years after notifying the European Council of the intention to withdraw unless there is a unanimous agreement to extend the negotiations. The House of Commons Library has produced a helpful note on all this: see Brexit: how does the Article 50 process work?
Until 2019, however, we shall still be members of the EU – and the extent to which we shall be obliged to take account of judgments of the CJEU after Brexit is still something of an open question, depending on what kind of trade deals we negotiate. Likewise, it would appear that the Conservative Party might well include repeal of the Human Rights Act 1998 and, possibly, withdrawal from the European Convention of Human Rights in its manifesto for the 2020 General Election. (Although it is possible that a General Election could be held before this date, under the provisions of the Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011 that would raise a number of practical difficulties.)
As of now, we are still full members of both institutions; and what follows sets out the basic structure of the two major European institutions: the European Union (“EU”) and the Council of Europe (“CoE”). There also are other less well-known Europe-wide political institutions, such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, but they are much less important terms of domestic law.
Opposite-sex civil partnerships, RE, funny handshakes – and some of the media still don’t understand the difference between Brussels and Strasbourg…
Opposite-sex civil partnerships? Not yet
Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan lost their appeal against the Administrative Court’s refusal to review the Government’s policy on the extension of civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples: see Steinfeld & Anor v Secretary of State for Education  EWCA Civ 81: we noted the decision here. Continue reading
Following a short inquiry, the Joint Committee on Human Rights has today published The Human Rights Implications of Brexit, in which it argues that the Government must not use fundamental rights as a bargaining chip and calls on the Government to give an undertaking to protect the residence rights of EU nationals in the UK. There is a summary here.
The Committee says that, while many fundamental rights are underpinned by EU law, it is not clear whether the Government intends to remove any rights which UK citizens currently possess under EU law – and, if so, which rights are under threat. It demands that any future legislation should include safeguards to fundamental rights and that Parliament should have the opportunity to debate, amend and vote on any proposed changes.
The Committee’s conclusions are as follows: Continue reading
So it’s goodbye to the EU, then…
… but not immediately
Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union reads as follows:
- Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.
- A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.
- The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.
- For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it. A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
- If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49.”
If a withdrawal agreement can be reached, it must be approved by the European Parliament and then by the Council, by Qualified Majority Voting. Continue reading
The selection and election of a new UK judge to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg
The UK’s current judge on the ECtHR, Paul Mahoney, will reach 70 in September – the compulsory age for retiring from the Court – and his term of office will end on 6 September 2016. On 7 June, the House of Commons Library issued Briefing Paper No. 7589 on the processes involved in the UK and in Europe in selecting a successor. The appointment process has two parts, the final decision being made by parliamentarians of the Council of Europe following interviews of candidates recommended by the Member State. The UK’s three candidates are due to be interviewed by the Committee on the Election of Judges in Strasbourg on 19 June 2016, with the final plenary vote expected later that week. Continue reading