EU recognition of sharia divorce decrees: Sahyouni

Advocate General Henrik Saugmandsgaard Øe has issued his Opinion on a request for a preliminary ruling from the Oberlandesgericht München (Higher Regional Court of Munich) on the interpretation of Council Regulation (EU) No 1259/2010 of 20 December 2010 implementing enhanced cooperation in the scope of the law applicable to divorce and legal separation. The case concerns recognition in Germany of a divorce decision adopted by a religious body in Syria [1 & 2]. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 25th June

Factual rather than “patriotic” coverage of the week’s events…

EU-UK Brexit talks

Whilst it is premature to comment extensively on the Brexit talks between the UK and the EU, one outcome of Monday’s meeting was agreement on the EU’s insistence on “sequencing”. Article 50 TFEU envisages two agreements: an exit agreement concerning issues relating to the departure of the UK from the EU and an agreement on future relations, which for the UK essentially means trade. David Allen Green comments: ”The UK want(ed) both to be negotiated together, in parallel. The EU wanted a number of preliminary issues discussed before the parties moved on to discussing future trade relations”. The UK’s insistence on “sequencing” was likely to be, in the words of David Davis, “the row of the summer”. However, the EU chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, stated:

“In a first step, we will deal with the most pressing issues. We must lift the uncertainty caused by Brexit. We want to make sure that the withdrawal of the UK happens in an orderly manner. Then, in a second step, we will scope our future relationship.”

This was confirmed by the Department for Exiting the European Union.

The Queen’s Speech and the Great Repeal Bill

The Government’s intention as announced in the Gracious Speech on Wednesday is that the (evidently no longer “Great”) Repeal Bill will allow for a smooth and orderly transition as the UK leaves the EU, ensuring that, wherever practical, the same rules and laws apply after Brexit as before it. The Bill will: Continue reading

UKIP, niqabs, burqas – and bans

UKIP has made a commitment in its Manifesto to ban the public wearing of the burqa and niqab. Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, UKIP’s leader, Paul Nuttall, said wearing a burqa or niqab in public was a barrier to integration and a security risk and that Muslim women who defied the ban would face a fine. Somewhat counter-intuitively, he also told Andrew Marr that “Manfred Weber, who’s the leader of the biggest group in the European Parliament, is now talking about an EU-wide ban. We can either be on the curve on this or behind the curve.” UKIP also proposes to outlaw sharia in the UK, though Nuttall told Marr that there were no proposals to ban Jewish religious courts because the Jewish population was smaller than the Muslim population.

All of which is interesting. A general ban on face-covering in public would no doubt survive a challenge at Strasbourg and probably at Luxembourg as well: see S.A.S, Achbita and Bougnaoui. There is, however, a slight snag with a UK-wide ban: Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 5th March

Brexit rumbles on, but perhaps the most important event of the week was the outcome of the Northern Ireland Assembly Election – on which we would not presume to comment…

Son (or more accurately daughter) of Miller?

Gina Miller, who mounted the successful challenge in the Supreme Court to the Prime Minister’s proposal to trigger Article 50 TEU by using the Royal Prerogative, has said that she is looking at launching a new challenge if Parliament is not given a vote on the final terms of Brexit. Speaking to Bloomberg, Ms Miller explained: Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 4th December

A week dominated by arguments about public religious manifestation and, inevitably, the fallout from the Brexit vote – of which much, much more to come… 

Reasonable accommodation in the workplace?

On 30 November at Prime Minister’s Question Time, Theresa May said in reply to a question from Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con), that

“We have a very strong tradition in this country of religious tolerance and freedom of speech, and our Christian heritage is something we can all be proud of. I am sure we would all want to ensure that people at work do feel able to speak about their faith, and also feel able to speak quite freely about Christmas.”

Perhaps coincidentally, the past week saw two publications on manifestation. Continue reading

British Muslims’ social attitudes are not so different after all

How widespread among Muslims is support for sharia? Answer: not as widespread as you might assume, if the conclusions of a survey commissioned by the Policy Exchange are to be believed.

In Unsettled Belonging: A survey of Britain’s Muslim communities, Martyn Frampton and David Goodhart look at a survey of about 3,000 British Muslims held in conjunction with ICM. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 6th November

A week in which everything else paled into insignificance beside… 

…Brexit: a spanner in the works

The big news of the week was that a max-strength Divisional Court of Queen’s Bench [Thomas LCJ, Etherton MR and Sales LJ] ruled in R (Miller & Anor) v The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2016] EWHC 2768 (Admin) that the Government has no power under the Crown Prerogative to trigger the Article 50 process for withdrawal from the European Union without the prior approval of Parliament. Unsurprisingly, a Government spokesperson said that HMG was “disappointed” with the outcome. Equally unsurprisingly, the Government is to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Prime Minister said subsequently that she was “confident” that the Government would win the appeal. But presumably the Government was “confident” of winning at the initial hearing…

Subsequent events

Following the High Court ruling, a number of commentators have suggested that this could result in the Prime Minister calling a “snap election”. However, that possibility  is now governed by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 introduced by the Cameron administration; S2 requires the resolution of a motion of no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government, or a motion for an early parliamentary election supported by two-thirds of the membership of the House of Commons (including vacant seats). Furthermore, the option of repealling the 2011 Act is no simple matter, as explained by Lord Norton; he suggests that whilst this is possible, it is not necessarily simple, or politically feasible.

Barristerblogger, Professor Mark Elliott and others noted that In the wake of the dramatic Article 50 judgment, various Brexiteers have been venting their feelings. On 5 November, the Bar Council, the representative body of all barristers in England & Wales, passed a resolution calling on the Lord Chancellor to condemn the recent attacks on the judiciary. A measured summary of the situation has been produced by Harry Bingham, eldest son of the late Lord Bingham, in an open letter to Liz Truss.  A brief statement was issued by the Ministry of Justice on Saturday afternoon, but this stopped short of condemning attacks on senior judges over the Brexit ruling.

The Supreme Court has indicated that it will hear the government’s appeal over 4 days during the week of 5 December with a larger than usual panel of judges. We suspect that Ms Truss’s cursory dismissal of the media attacks will be further tested in the run-up to the UKSC hearing, and afterwards.

Abortion – or its absence – in Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, unlike the rest of the UK, abortion is only allowed if a woman’s life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her physical or mental health. On Wednesday, an appeal began in the Supreme Court against the judgment in R (A (A Child) & Anor) v Secretary of State for Health [2015] EWCA Civ 771, in which the appellants were a girl, A, and her mother, resident in Northern Ireland. Continue reading