POSTS BY Tobias Lock

Once More unto the Breach? An Independent Scotland, Europe, and the Law

Today, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that she would ask the Scottish Parliament to allow her to agree with the UK Government on another independence referendum. The Scottish people should be given a right to decide – once the terms of Brexit are known – whether to stick with the UK and leave the EU or pursue the route of independence and stay within ‘Europe’. This blog post will briefly outline some of the legal obstacles on the way, both internal and external.

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The Supreme Court in Miller – some early comments

The UK Supreme Court’s decision in the Miller appeal was probably greeted with a sigh of relief in 10 Downing Street. Sure, the Government will now need to seek parliamentary approval for triggering Article 50 TEU and starting the formal process of withdrawing from the EU, but the much greater political danger of having to also seek the consent of the devolved parliaments of Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales, has not materialised. What follows are a few brief comments on the Supreme Court’s reasoning and an assessment of its implications for the future.

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Brexit and the Single Market: You say Article 50, we say Article 127?

Hard on the heels of the Article 50 case heard last week by the UK Supreme Court, comes the announcement of another challenge to the UK Government’s Brexit plans, this time based on Article 127 of the EEA agreement. Much like Article 50 TEU, that provision allows contracting parties to the EEA agreement to withdraw from it. The claimants in the Article 127 challenge contend that withdrawal from the EU under Article 50 will not lead to withdrawal from the EEA, given that with Article 127 the EEA agreement contains its own termination clause. Hence their argument goes that unless the Government also triggers Article 127, the UK will stay in the EEA even after Brexit; and that would mean that the UK would remain in the single market. Much like the Article 50 case, the impending court case therefore seeks a declaration by the High Court that the Government cannot trigger Article 127 without prior approval of Parliament. The claimants’ hope is that while Parliament may feel politically bound by the EU referendum result to allow the Government to leave the EU, it may not vote in favour of leaving the EEA, viz. the single market, as this was not a question on the ballot paper. It is the aim of this blogpost to identify the three main hurdles the claimants are likely to be facing and discuss whether these can be overcome.

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The High Court’s Judgment in Miller and Others – four brief remarks

Today’s decision by the High Court of England and Wales that the UK Government did not have the power under the Royal Prerogative to initiate the process of withdrawing from the EU laid down in Article 50 TEU came as a surprise to many. Four brief remarks on what the decision might entail politically.

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Theresa May’s Great Repeal Bill – a Scottish own goal?

Theresa May’s announcement of a Great Repeal Bill on Sunday has the hallmarks of a stroke of genius: It creates some momentum in the internal Brexit debate without substantively changing anything, it appeases the die-heart Brexiteers in her party, and it may kill off legal challenges pending in the courts of England and Northern Ireland demanding that Parliament be involved before Article 50 TEU is triggered. The Great Reform Bill however raises interesting constitutional questions with regard to the devolved nations of the UK, and in particular Scotland. Has Theresa May scored an own goal by allowing the Scots to block her first big step towards Brexit? Or is this part of an even more cunning plan to delay having to trigger Article 50 TEU for a very long time?

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A European Future for Scotland?

The fact that Scotland voted with 62% for the UK to remain a member of the EU whereas the majority of the overall UK electorate opted to leave the EU, raises important political and legal questions. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that a second referendum on Scottish independence is on the table. What are the options for a continued EU membership of an independent Scotland?

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Legal implications of human rights reform in the UK

The return of a majority Conservative government in last week’s general election in the UK has made the Conservative Party’s plans for reforming human rights law in the United Kingdom a likely prospect. It is recalled that on 3 October 2014, the Conservative Party published its policy document ‘Protecting Human Rights in the UK’ which sets out its proposal to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) and replace it with a new British Bill of Rights. In addition, the policy document also raised the prospect that the UK might withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). But none of that is as easy as it sounds.

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Autonomy now?! A brief response to Daniel Halberstam

I read Daniel Halberstam’s eloquent and erudite defence of Opinion 2/13 with great interest and I agree that (some of) the Court’s arguments can be rationally explained. What struck me about his piece, however, is that while it is centred on the concept of autonomy, he doesn’t seem to regard it necessary to provide us with a definition of it. In order to mount an effective defence of the Court’s position, it would have surely been a good starting point to defend the Court’s conception of autonomy as expressed in the Opinion.

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Schlägt das Imperium zurück? Die Straßburger Reaktion auf das EuGH-Gutachten zum EMRK-Beitritt

Jahresberichte internationaler Gerichte sorgen selten für Kontroversen oder gar Konflikte zwischen Gerichten. Die scharf formulierte Antwort auf das Gutachten 2/13 des EuGH zum EMRK-Beitritt, zu finden im Jahresbericht des EGMR, der am Donnerstag von Präsident Spielmann vorgestellt wurde, stellt sicherlich eine Ausnahme dar. Der EuGH hatte entschieden, dass der Entwurf eines Beitrittsabkommens der EU zur EMRK aus mehreren Gründen als mit den Verträgen unvereinbar war. Die akademische Kritik folgte prompt. Die kurze Passage im Vorwort des Präsidenten zum Jahresbericht, die wahrscheinlich in letzter Minute eingefügt wurde, stellt die erste Reaktion der Institution dar, die von dem Gutachten am meisten betroffen war.

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