29 September 2022

The Visa Ban, Nikolai and his Russian Sister

The absence of an EU-level decision to bar perceived Russians ‘tourists’ from visiting the EU, however, did not prevent several Member States from adopting such measures at the national level, departing from EU law provisions currently in force. Contrary to the ‘tourist -only’ narrative, however, the new rules severely affect Russian family members of EU citizens and residents – an issue that, so far, has escaped public attention. Continue reading >>

Lessons from the United Kingdom’s „Enemies of the People“ case

It is difficult to deny evidence of a potential backlash against the judiciary in the UK. Both Miller decisions sent shockwaves through the United Kingdom. This is despite both decisions having the effect of protecting the powers of Parliament rather than the courts, and both having a marginal, if any, impact on the ability of the UK government to achieve its desired Brexit outcome. It is hard to forget the ‘Enemies of the People’ headline following the first Miller decision. Continue reading >>
14 September 2022

Giving Offence is no Offence

The death of Queen Elizabeth II last week, and thus the accession to the throne of King Charles III is an opportunity for reflection. However, what some have found here in the UK is that expressing republican sentiment in public has been met with a policing intervention – arrest or warning. This post considers the legality of expressing such views, and thus of the police response too, as well as some wider issues about the policing of protest, dissent and free speech. Continue reading >>
06 September 2022

A New European Political Community: The British Perspective

The upcoming State of the Union address scheduled for 14 September and the succession of Liz Truss as UK Prime Minister looks set to be a potential turning point in EU relations. But will the EU grasp it? Could a new intergovernmental political forum – acting alongside EU enlargement – ease the tension of EU treaty change? Such a forum might bridge the potential role prospective EU member states in Eastern Europe could play before formally joining and the necessity of forging a constructive post-Brexit relationship with the UK. It could resolve political and constitutional concerns. Continue reading >>
28 Juli 2022

Net Zero, Full Transparency

Earlier this month, during a record-breaking heatwave and a Conservative party leadership contest that will determine the next UK Prime Minister, the High Court quietly issued a judgment that may have nearly as much impact on the course of UK climate policy over the coming decades than either of the other events. The High Court judgement in the Net Zero Strategy legal challenge can be considered a landmark victory. On the one hand, the case can be understood as a narrow administrative law challenge to the process by which a government decision was made. On the other hand, however, the judgment can be understood in the context of a growing number of cases around the world which demonstrate the critical role of the law and the courts in creating accountability for climate action – something that is increasingly vital in the face of a warming world and a lack of public trust in key institutions. Continue reading >>
13 Juli 2022

When National Laws and Human Rights Standards Are at Odds

The UK Government’s agenda to erode human rights and to disentangle the UK from its European partners has now been fully materialised. Soon after Brexit, the UK Government announced its intention to replace the Human Rights Act, which incorporates the rights set out in the ECHR into domestic law, with a British Bill of Rights. The replacement draft Bill of Rights is now being considered by Parliament. Although the draft Bill confirms that the catalogue of rights remains the same, it introduces many significant changes. The draft Bill will water down, not strengthen, human rights protection in the UK. Continue reading >>
08 Juli 2022

For Whom The Bell Tolls

Less than three years ago, Boris Johnson led his party to their largest election victory since 1987. Today, his premiership is in ruins, his party has abandoned him, and he has resigned in disgrace. The political aspects of the United Kingdom’s constitution are often said to be founded on the belief that politicians are good chaps. In reality, this constitution, at least when it comes to issues of survival, is based on the maintenance of confidence. Once that is gone, so are you. Continue reading >>
30 Juni 2022

Scottish Indyref 2

On Tuesday 28 June, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon addressed the Scottish Parliament about her plans for a second independence referendum. According to the proposed Bill, the referendum will take place on 19 October 2023. The announcement reopened the age-old debate about the ‘festering issue’ whether Holyrood does possess the power to organise such referendum without the explicit consent of Westminster. Continue reading >>
17 Juni 2022

The UK’s anti-legal populism

Calls for UK withdrawal from the ECHR are raised at fairly regular intervals in certain quarters of the Conservative party, but this week various members of the Government, including the Prime Minister. Reason for this was an interim measure by the European Court of Human Rights that stopped a deportation flight to Rwanda. It was entirely predictable that calls for UK withdrawal from the ECHR would resurface. Less predictable for many, are the implications this would hold for the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement. Continue reading >>
15 Juni 2022

British Bare Necessities

In the latest episode of the Brexit saga, the United Kingdom government has published the Northern Ireland Protocol ('NIP') Bill, by which it seeks to unilaterally disapply large parts of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland to the 2019 Withdrawal Agreement (‘WA’) concluded between the UK and the European Union. The British government has shared a summary of its legal position, seeking to justify the NIP Bill on the basis of the doctrine of necessity. However, this justification seems to be a literal, if unconvincing, attempt to make a virtue of necessity. Continue reading >>
29 Mai 2022

British Cavalier Attitude

On 17 May, the UK’s Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, announced to the House of Commons that the Government would be introducing legislative proposals to supersede the Northern Ireland Protocol (NIP). This drastic measure is the culmination of strained negotiations between the UK and the EU to modify the NIP since summer 2021. Stepping outside of the framework of the Withdrawal Agreement to address the claimed problems, the UK challenges the Rule of Law in international relations. Continue reading >>

The Never-Ending Struggle Over (Northern) Ireland

Claiming the need to “protect the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement in all its dimensions”, the UK government threatens once again to adopt legislation unilaterally changing the Protocol Ireland/Northern Ireland. In legal terms, this would constitute a breach of the Withdrawal Agreement between the EU and the UK. But does the Good Friday Agreement indeed exclude divergence between Northern Ireland and Great Britain or even demand protecting trade from GB to Northern Ireland? Continue reading >>
26 Mai 2022

Partygate, Inquiries, and how not to Learn Lessons in the UK

Responding to public pressure and the criticisms of bereaved families, many states have begun to examine the actions and decisions taken during the COVID-19 pandemic. Public inquiries or parliamentary investigations are an essential step in this examination and can provide lessons to support an effective future response to crisis. In any such investigation, the question of who investigates and what is investigated can be as important as the findings themselves. However, a barrier to learning will be the political pressure not to own up to failures or failings, particularly where it concerns a culture of government or a style of governance still practiced. What this can collectively amount to is a failure to learn: a critical failing where it is not question of if a future crisis arises – but when. Continue reading >>
18 Mai 2022

Vom Krieg gegen Terror bis zum Klimawandel

Von Terrorismus und Wirtschaftskrise bis hin zu COVID-19 und Klimawandel: In den ersten Jahrzehnten des 21. Jahrhunderts sind die Demokratien von Krise zu Krise getaumelt und haben rechtliche und politische Maßnahmen ergriffen, um der jeweiligen Bedrohung zu begegnen. Viele dieser vermeintlichen Notfallmaßnahmen sind jedoch zu dauerhaften Maßnahmen geworden, die die Legitimität sowohl der von der Notfallmaßnahme betroffenen Verfassungsnormen als auch der Notfallmaßnahme selbst in Frage stellen. Dieses Plädoyer für den Notstand muss jedoch hinterfragt werden. Continue reading >>

From the War on Terror to Climate Change

From terrorism and economic crisis, to COVID-19 and climate change; the first decades of the 21st Century have seen democracies lurch from crisis to crisis, implementing legal and political responses to tackle the threat at hand. Many of these ostensibly emergency responses have, however, become permanent, raising profound challenges to the legitimacy of both the constitutional norms impacted by the emergency response, and the emergency response itself. This plea to emergency must, however, be interrogated; Ultimately, what is key to understanding permanent emergencies is not the threat but the decision-maker that claims such an emergency exists. Continue reading >>
16 Mai 2022

Counter-Terrorism, the Rule of Law and the ‚Counter-Law‘ Critique

The Rule of Law requires that the law be a reliable and non-oppressive guide to how citizens should act: as such, the laws governing every citizen must be rationally knowable and voluntarily followable (and, by extension, open to rational challenge and justification). Tendencies in counter-terrorist legislation clearly run counter to the Rule of Law thus understood. Every move away from knowable and followable laws is a move away from it. Continue reading >>
03 Mai 2022

Next Chapter, in a Larger Story

The Northern Ireland Assembly election is generating much speculation about the wider consequences. Beyond the usual implications of any vote in Northern Ireland, there is heightened interest in what it might mean for the debate on the constitutional future, as well as the ongoing and intense dialogue about the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol. There are sound reasons to view this election as historic, but it would be wise to place the projected outcome, if it unfolds, in context. Continue reading >>

Democracy on Thin Ice

The notorious Elections Act 2022 culminated in an appropriately dramatic fashion this past week. Following two successful motions in the House of Lords that sought to tame the most controversial provisions of the Act – the voter ID measure and subjecting the Electoral Commission to greater executive oversight – the House of Commons was forced to directly confront the disputed and unpopular nature of these measures. Despite ongoing concerns and the Lords’ efforts to intervene, the Act will go into effect largely as originally drafted. Continue reading >>
23 April 2022

Why ‘Partygate’ May Be the Beginning of the End

On 12 April, the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, received fixed-penalty notices for breaching Covid regulations, regarding their attendance at a surprise birthday party for the Prime Minister in the Cabinet Room in 10 Downing Street on 19 June 2020. Both paid the fine. Both apologised. Neither resigned.  Continue reading >>
25 Februar 2022

Claiming “We are out but I am in” post-Brexit

It is not often that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) is presented with a case in which the law is so crystal clear, and so overwhelmingly contrary to the applicant’s claims, as in Préfet du Gers. The central question of the case is weather British nationals retain their EU citizenship and EU citizenship rights after Brexit. Given how straightforward the Treaties and the case-law are on this matter, it is unsurprising that AG Collins answered this question in the negative in a well-argued and straightforward Opinion. Continue reading >>
24 Februar 2022

Electoral Oversight under Government Control

The Elections Bill 2021 has generated significant controversy among members of parliament, scholars, and observers. The provision that has generated the most alarm has been a voter ID provision, whose effect has been described as prospectively oppressive and whose justification is widely seen as thin, given the low levels of identified voter fraud in the UK. However, another provision of the Bill has also generated alarm: granting the Secretary of State the power to influence the currently independent Electoral Commission. Continue reading >>
16 Februar 2022

A Profit that Creates Loss

The recent UK Supreme Court judgment of 2 February 2022 continues to exclude children from citizenship rights. The Court's decision is built on the idea that British citizenship is a statutory right rather than being based on common law or human rights law. As a consequence, the court's focus was on statutory interpretation instead of child welfare. The profit made from the children’s registration fees is at the expense of children who remain excluded from citizenship. Continue reading >>
11 Februar 2022

British citizenship as a non-constitutional status

It would generally seem uncontroversial to suggest that citizenship constitutes a fundamental status in all democratic societies. The UK Supreme Court’s recent decision in PRCBC casts doubt on whether that assertion holds true. The judgment highlights the uneasy relationship between fundamental (or constitutional) rights and citizenship rights, as well as between common law rights and statutory rights, within the UK’s incompletely codified constitutional order. Continue reading >>
04 Februar 2022

Terrorism law and the erosion of free speech in the UK

The horrifying nature and unpredictability of terrorist attacks in the past two decades meant that in the UK, the extensions of state power had considerable public support in the years following 9/11. While useful to authorities dealing with an unpredictable threat, there are several factors in the laws that provide a potent recipe to erode expression rights. Continue reading >>
26 Januar 2022

Clause 9 of the Nationality and Borders Bill

In July 2021, the UK government set to work on a new Nationality and Borders Bill. Should this far-reaching amendment acquire statutory force, it will raise important questions about the capacity of the UK constitution to prevent sweeping executive authorisation, even in matters with intense bearing on the most profound human rights and entitlements. Continue reading >>
29 Dezember 2021

Illiberal Britain

The right to peaceful protest in England and Wales is under graver threat than first feared. On 24 November 2021, new amendments were introduced to the already highly controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (PCSC) in the House of Lords. These are jaw-dropping measures that will expand police stop and search powers, increase restrictions on peaceful protests, create new criminal offences and banning orders, and expand delegated powers. What follows is a brief attempt to make sense of these illiberal proposals. If enacted, they will have severe implications for how the law strikes the balance between rights of protestors and the wider community. But even if not, their very proposal, and the means of legislating for them, are further evidence of a government with distaste, if not hostility, for constitutional norms of debate, scrutiny, and accountability inside and outside of Parliament. Continue reading >>
23 Dezember 2021

Stateless without Notification

Shocking new legislation currently going through the UK parliament includes controversial powers to strip British citizens of their citizenship without notification, even if they hold no other citizenship and risk being made stateless. Opponents say such powers would be draconian and in violation of international law. The numbers of people potentially affected are huge, at almost 10% of the population. Moreover, there are clear racialised biases, with ethnic minorities and those of migrant heritage predominantly at risk. Citizenship seems no longer to be an inviolable status of rights and protection, but more and more a conditional and insecure privilege. Continue reading >>
22 November 2021

Lloyd v Google: towards a more restrictive approach on privacy protection in the UK?

The UK Supreme Court has delivered its much-awaited judgment in Lloyd v Google - a highly significant case for the development of privacy law in the United Kingdom. The Supreme Court paints an overly thin picture of data privacy and raises important concerns about possible divergence from EU standards in the future. Continue reading >>
11 November 2021

Die Versicherheitlichung und Kriminalisierung von Migration und Asyl in Großbritannien

Die 'Nationality and Borders Bill' stellt den Höhepunkt der zunehmend sicherheitsorientierten, kriminalisierten und feindlichen Haltung der britischen Regierung gegenüber Asyl und Migration dar. Der 11. September verfestigte den höchst zweifelhaften Zusammenhang zwischen Migration und Terrorismus, der noch heute von einigen in der Regierung hergestellt wird. In der Zwischenzeit hatte die britische Regierung jahrzehntelang eine restriktive Migrationspolitik und -praxis betrieben, die jetzt neue Extreme annimmt. Continue reading >>

The UK’s Securitisation and Criminalisation of Migration and Asylum

The Nationality and Borders Bill is the culmination of the UK government’s increasingly securitised, criminalised and hostile approach to asylum and migration. While 9/11 served to solidify the highly dubious nexus between migration and terrorism, the UK (alongside other destination states) has for decades been implementing restrictive migration policies and practices designed to deter and prevent asylum seekers and other migrants from reaching its territories and accessing safety. Continue reading >>
02 November 2021

Fischen im Trüben

Der Post-Brexit-Fischereistreit zwischen London und Paris will nicht enden: Erst im Mai dieses Jahres standen sich vor der Kanalinsel Jersey französische und britische Kriegsschiffe gegenüber. Nach der Festsetzung eines britischen Fischerbootes in der Hafenstadt Le Havre am vergangenen Donnerstag droht der Konflikt nun abermals zu eskalieren. Kern des Streits sind Unstimmigkeiten über die Ausstellungen von Fischfanglizenzen für britische Gewässer zwischen sechs und zwölf Seemeilen vor der Küste. Das beiderseitige Säbelrasseln über die Zugangslizenzen überdeckt die Tatsache, dass es sich letztlich um eine bürokratische Einzelfrage handelt. Diese gilt es nun zu klären. Continue reading >>
05 Oktober 2021

Brexit, Labour Shortages and Structures of Exploitation

Even though there were warnings that labour shortages would follow Brexit, the UK Government did not put sufficient plans in place between 2016 and 2021, to prevent the current crisis that many predicted. Now, the UK Government is attempting to address the problem in two different ways: first, by introducing temporary visas for migrant workers; second, by employing prisoners and other offenders to cover shortages. However, for migrant workers or prisoners to work in fair conditions, radical change of the legal framework is needed. Continue reading >>
11 September 2021

The Narrowing of Electoral Access

The broad reforms in the UK Elections Bill 2021 present as self-serving entrenchment by Conservatives. Two measures in particular support this assessment. A voter ID requirement would raise hurdles that could reduce turnout among vulnerable or marginalized groups; and the Electoral Commission would be placed under greater oversight of the partisan Speaker’s Committee, hamstringing the Commission as a neutral monitor of elections. Other provisions lack such a clearly oppressive or self-serving character, but could raise similar concerns if abused in implementation. Continue reading >>
03 September 2021

Lean Authoritarianism

On judicial review and constitutional plumbing Continue reading >>

Lean Authoritarianism

Über justizielle Kontrolle und inkrementelle Verfassungsklempnerei Continue reading >>
08 August 2021

Modernising the United Kingdom’s Official Secrecy Laws

In the United Kingdom, proposals to reform official secrecy laws could have damaging implications for journalistic expression, whistleblowing and government transparency. As is, the Home Office proposals could lead to a situation whereby a law which prohibits whistleblowers from going outside of their organisation, and is thus incompatible with Article10 ECHR, could be replaced with an even worse law, which inhibits expression, and prevents journalists from lawfully reporting on important matters of public interest. Continue reading >>
23 Juli 2021

Towards a Radical Revision of the Northern Ireland Protocol?

The UK Government’s Command Paper released on 21 July 2021 urges a renegotiation of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, which forms part of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement. The EU has already indicated that a renegotiation is out of the question. In fact, this blog post argues that it would be constitutionally impossible for the EU to agree to the UK’s proposals without agreeing to a radical revision of the Protocol that would endanger the achievement of its overall aims. In addition, the invocation of Article 16 (the safeguards clause) as discussed in the Command Paper would not resolve the underlying issues either and the UK Government knows this. But that leaves the question: What is the Command Paper really about? Continue reading >>
06 Juli 2021

A New Constitutional Dawn for Unionism?

In the recent High Court decision on the legislation regarding the Northern Ireland Protocol, the court delivers a number of messages which are suitable to deepen divisions in Northern Ireland, and classes international treaties as merely political compromises not suitable for adjudication. If these views were confirmed before the UK Supreme Court, the EU or anyone else would be well advised to be very careful when concluding agreements with the UK, and to pay close attention to effective enforcement mechanisms beyond UK courts. Continue reading >>
17 Mai 2021

Nation of Animal Lovers

On May 12, 2021, the UK government published an Action Plan for Animal Welfare setting out reform plans to protect animals both within its borders and overseas. In this plan, the UK government pledges to further steps in its efforts to promote animal welfare and to recognize animals as sentient beings in law. As the ‘Nation of Animal Lovers’ the UK has a comparatively impressive record of animal welfare legislation. Yet, the tone of government communication is tainted by adversity against the EU in the context of Brexit. Continue reading >>
07 Mai 2021

A Government (Un)Governed?

On 16 December 2020, despite rising rates of infection and the widely predicted ‘second wave’ already impacting neighbouring European countries, Prime Minister Boris Johnson mocked the opposition for wanting to ‘cancel Christmas’ by reintroducing nationwide lockdown restrictions. Three days later, a nationwide lockdown in England was introduced (inadvertently mimicking the March 2020 commitment that London had ‘zero prospect’ of lockdown, four days before it was enforced). The lockdown – closing schools, universities and a majority of businesses which were deemed non-essential and prohibiting gatherings of more than two people outdoors from separate households – continued until 12 April 2021 when restrictions began to be lessened through a phased ‘roadmap out of lockdown’. Such political hyperbole by the executive and lax response, followed by sudden U-turn policy making (‘essay crisis’ governance) and severely restrictive measures, have characterised much of the response to the pandemic in the UK. Continue reading >>
16 April 2021

The UK’s Post-Brexit ‘Constitutional Unsettlement’

The tortuous process of Brexit is complete. The UK has left the EU, and Boris Johnson and the Conservative party now enjoy a commanding majority in the House of Commons after several years of unstable minority governments. However, Brexit has opened up a number of constitutional fault-lines, which have not closed with UK departure from the EU: indeed, if anything, they have continued to widen. This has accelerated a process that had started even before the ‘Leave’ vote in the June 2016 referendum - namely the ‘unsettling’ of the once famously stable British constitutional order. Continue reading >>
09 April 2021

Zwischen Chefberater und freiem Meinungsmarkt

Es ist offenkundig, dass das zur Pandemiebekämpfung notwendige medizinische und epidemiologische Spezialwissen in Kernexekutiven nicht vorhanden ist und deshalb von außen dem Entscheidungsprozess zugeführt werden muss. Dies passiert in unterschiedlichen politischen Systemen auf sehr verschiedene Weise. Aber wie sehen die Beratungsstrukturen grundsätzlich aus und wie agierten sie in der Pandemiekrise der letzten 12 Monate? Diese Frage soll im folgenden aus vergleichender Perspektive mit einem Blick auf die Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Großbritannien und die Vereinigten Staaten beantwortet werden. Continue reading >>
30 März 2021

Hercules comes to Scotland

In a landmark case, the Outer House of the Court of Session in Scotland on 24 March 2021 declared that the closure of worship places in Scotland was a disproportionate interference with the right to freedom of religion and freedom of assembly under article 9(2) and 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The judgment is as an example of anxious scrutiny in judicial review of administrative action in the pandemic context. His consideration of the evidence concerning closure of worship places strikes as well documented and highly demanding assessment. Given the exceptional circumstances in which governments are crafting their emergency responses to the pandemic, pitching proportionality assessments as Lord Braid does is concerning. Continue reading >>
26 März 2021

A Shot in the Arm or a Shot in the Foot?

The European Commission’s proposal to impose what was referred to as an “export ban” on exports of COVID-19 vaccines has generated considerable political and social media comment, particularly from the United Kingdom. The measure is (probably) lawful as a matter of international law and is certainly not a breach of the rule of law. But that does not mean that it is wise. Using the EU’s power in this way is a bit like pulling a brick from the tower in the well-known game of Jenga: the risk is that what is already a somewhat rickety tower (the rules-based trading order) will wobble yet further.  More immediately, the risk of vaccine nationalism is that other states will retaliate in a negative-sum game. Continue reading >>
19 März 2021

A Tricky Move

The European Commission’s decision to commence legal proceedings against the United Kingdom for unilaterally extending certain grace periods for the movement of goods in contravention to the Northern Ireland Protocol is legally sound, but politically tricky. In legal terms, the decision to launch both infringement proceedings and take first steps towards arbitration is the most promising avenue towards UK compliance with the Protocol. Yet it brings with it a political risk of further escalating the tensions around the Protocol within Northern Ireland and between the EU and the UK. Continue reading >>
03 März 2021

A Paean to Judicial (Self) Restraint

The UK Supreme Court Shamima Begum decision is widely reported to be a win for former home secretary Sajid Javid who had stripped Begum of her citizenship. Yet, is it really a vindication of this action? The decision of the Supreme Court is not based on a factual assessment of Begum’s case but only on whether she has to be given permission to return to the UK to participate in an effective and fair manner in the immigration appeal. A limited decision, and by no means a final adjudication on Begum’s deprivation of citizenship case. Continue reading >>
30 Januar 2021

The EU’s and UK’s Self-Defeating Vaccine Nationalism

The European Union and the United Kingdom currently risk being victims of their own vaccine nationalism. The time-pressure for securing as many vaccine doses against COVID-19 as possible has led to hiccups and even tensions between both. At the heart of the matter is AstraZeneca’s delay in distributing a given number of doses in the European Union. Meanwhile, it continues to serve the United Kingdom in a timely fashion. The threat of imposing export restrictions is now on the table. Continue reading >>
28 Januar 2021

Striking While the Iron is Hot

Boris Johnson will reportedly head to Scotland this week in order to demonstrate the benefits of the British union. His visit is likely triggered by the 11 point ‘roadmap’ unveiled on Sunday by the Scottish National Party (SNP) to hold another independence referendum. The United Kingdom is at a critical juncture: the country risks becoming a ‘failed state’ unless the Scottish issue can be resolved. Continue reading >>
21 Januar 2021

English Court Blocks Puberty Blockers in Anti-Trans Craze Judgment

In a far-reaching and immediately impactful judicial review decision, the English High Court conflates puberty blockers and medical transition and decides puberty blockers should not be available to trans youth under the age of 16. The court gives the reason that puberty blockers ‘lead down a pathway to medical transition’ which can have some irreversible effects. According to the court, young persons under the age of 16 cannot appreciate the significance of these potential, and potentially irreversible effects in the areas of sexual functioning and fertility. Better then, is the court’s logic, to let them experience the irreversible effects of puberty. The decision puts trans children’s lives at risk and only makes eventual transition much more invasive. Continue reading >>
04 Januar 2021

Mitigating Brexit through Bilateral Free-Movement of Persons

Rather than bemoaning the Brexit choice the UK made, it is time to start thinking about living with it in a way that would cause as little disruption as possible for all those concerned. How to mitigate, at least to some degree, the sudden, unprecedented loss of rights that Brexit caused? EU citizenship not any more on the table, bilateral freedom of movement of persons agreements with the EU Member States, EEA countries and Switzerland could offer a way forward. This solution is fully in line with EU law and has already been tested. Continue reading >>
05 Dezember 2020

Dead Lawyers, Complicit States

The decision by Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis to refuse an inquiry into the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane was just the latest episode in a long and sorry saga. The result is that a 2003 judgment from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) finding that the UK had breached Article 2 ECHR (right to life) by failing to hold an appropriate inquiry into Finucane’s murder has still not been acted upon and any possibility of justice or accountability fades just that little bit more. Continue reading >>
04 Dezember 2020

Zwischen Pausenhof und Verfassungsschutz

Nach der Drohung eines 11-jährigen Schülers seine Grundschullehrerin zu enthaupten, steht das Thema Radikalisierung an Schulen wieder weit oben auf der politischen Agenda. Die Unsicherheit unter Lehrer*innen, wie sie mit solchen Fällen umgehen sollen, ist groß. Nicht nur ist unklar, was unter Radikalisierung zu verstehen ist, sondern es fehlt auch an klaren gesetzlichen Vorgaben, wie die Rechte und Pflichten von Schüler*innen und Lehrer*innen in Einklang zu bringen sind. Continue reading >>
13 November 2020

The BBC and Henry VIII’s Heirs

Once again, the BBC is under pressure. Once again, the British Government is briefing hostile newspapers about how both it, and its sister public service broadcaster, Channel 4, are in the firing line. Once again, dark clouds gather over its future, which has been called into question. The licence fee, the hypothecated tax that provides the corporation with its revenue, has been under threat in the past, but this time, it’s proved the lightning rod for more dissent, with a citizen’s campaign to defund the BBC. How did we get here? Where should we go? Where will we go? Continue reading >>
21 Oktober 2020

A Draft is no Infringement

In the last few weeks, little more has been said about the infringement action launched by the Commission against the UK at the beginning of October for failure to fulfil obligations under EU law in relation to the Withdrawal Agreement.  However, not only has this not gone away, but the recent ratcheting up of ‘no deal’ tensions means that a claim may soon be made on the so-called insurance policy (the controversial clauses in the UK Internal Market Bill), turning the threatened breach into an actual one.  After the Bill becomes law, and assuming that the controversial clauses remain, a minister may use those clauses to pass a statutory instrument, for example, forbidding any checks to be carried out on goods travelling from Great Britain into Northern Ireland.  Some would argue that the threat is bad enough and itself justifies an infringement action.  That may be so.  However, the Commission’s action is still premature. Continue reading >>
25 September 2020

Bad Role Models

Over the past several months, there has been an increase in asylum seekers and refugees crossing the English Channel in small inflatable boats. This prompted the UK government to propose stemming arrivals with an Australian-style approach: ‘pushing back’ boats to France before they can reach British territorial waters. The UK already funds France to prevent asylum seekers leaving French territory through ‘pullback’ measures. Such pushback and pullback practices likely violate several international refugee, human rights and law of the sea obligations. Continue reading >>
20 September 2020

Lawful composition – the EFTA Court’s approach

On 10 September 2020, the British Advocate General at the Court of Justice of the European Union, Eleanor Sharpston, was replaced by the Greek lawyer Athanasios Rantos. Most of the commentators of the incident, which stirred up a great deal of dust, focus on the question whether the termination of Ms. Sharpston’s mandate on 10 September 2020 was lawful. The following considerations, on the other hand, examine the legal situation in the event that her expulsion from the ECJ was after Brexit in line with EU law. A precedent of the EFTA Court in 2016 may be relevant in this context. Continue reading >>
16 September 2020

A Matter of Faith

The purpose of Brexit, we have been told, is to “take back control”. It should hardly come as a surprise therefore that this involves the reassertion by Parliament of its prerogative to determine the domestic effects (if any) of international agreements within the UK legal system. Wresting this power away from Brussels goes to the very root of Brexit’s raison d’être. Moreover, why have this power if you’re not going to use it? It is in this context that the furore concerning the Internal Market Bill, presented last Wednesday by the Johnson government, should be viewed. Continue reading >>
10 September 2020

In the Name of Peace and Integrity?

Last Tuesday, something rare took place in Westminster. The UK Government officially announced its intention to breach the Withdrawal Agreement that it had signed and ratified a few months ago. Prime Minister Boris Johnson valiantly defended the draft by declaring that such breach is necessary in order ‘to uphold the integrity of the UK, but also to protect the Northern Irish peace process and the Good Friday agreement.’ Is that really so? Continue reading >>
08 September 2020

A Test for Sovereignty after Brexit

Speaking in the House of Commons on the eve of the publication of the Internal Market Bill and in response to an urgent question, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis stated that ‘Yes, this does break international law in a very specific and limited way'. Can the UK, by domestic legislation, limit the direct effect of the Withdrawal Agreement? Continue reading >>

Contested Justice

As the UK and the EU are entering the final phase in the negotiations over a post-Brexit trade deal, it has become clear that there is a fundamental clash of interests not only about fishing and governance issues but also about human rights. For people outside the UK it has often been difficult to comprehend the persistent contestation of the HRA and the European Convention, as well as their lack of public support. There are three main reasons behind this conundrum. Continue reading >>
26 Juni 2020

No unity in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has not achieved a unified approach towards COVID-19. Rather, the crisis has exposed the transformation of the UK into nations pulling in quite different directions. This post will discuss the disunity in the British response to coronavirus, focusing on the Scottish and British governments. COVID-19 illustrates the political and legal instability of the British constitution as the country exits the European Union. Continue reading >>
08 April 2020

Corona Constitutional #6: Der englische Patient

Boris Johnson liegt mit Corona in der Intensivstation. Was passiert, wenn der Premierminister stirbt oder sein Amt nicht mehr ausüben kann? Wie regelt man das ohne geschriebene Verfassung? GAVIN PHILLIPSON ist einer der besten Kenner des britischen Verfassungsrechts. Im Interview mit Max Steinbeis gibt er Auskunft über die Rechte und Möglichkeiten des Parlaments, über die ungeheure Machtfülle der Regierung und über die Zukunft der Grund- und Menschenrechte im Vereinigten Königreich. Continue reading >>

A Prime Minister in Hospital: the Constitutional Implications

Following the news that the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has been taken to hospital for treatment for COVID-19, there has been much discussion about what should happen if he should die or become incapacitated. Who would take over and how would such a successor be chosen? What is the role of Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, who has been designated to deputise for him in his absence? And how do we find the answers to the above questions, given the UK has no codified Constitution to consult? Continue reading >>
31 März 2020

More than just ,Protecting Veterans’

On 18 March the UK Minister for Defence Ben Wallace introduced into the UK Parliament its promised package of new legislation designed to ‘protect veterans’. the proposed laws would amend the UK’s Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) in a number of ways that impact on its human rights obligations under international law, particularly treaty commitments under the ECHR. Continue reading >>
25 Februar 2020

Is the UK Government Undermining the BBC?

The independent viability of the BBC from the government of the day has always been significantly a matter of convention. Any Government that took on the BBC was likely to suffer, politically, as a result. But since the last election, the political calculus has changed. Continue reading >>
14 Februar 2020

Es geht nicht um den Platz am Tisch.

Es geht um den Tisch.

Über Deutschland, UK, Irland, Flüchtlingsschutz und meine ganz persönliche Bitte an Friedrich Merz. Continue reading >>

It’s not about a seat at the table.

It’s about the table.

On Germany, UK, Ireland, refugee protection and a respectful request to Friedrich Merz. Continue reading >>
13 Februar 2020

Paving the Way for Undermining the Independence of UK’s Media

Two stories made the headlines in the United Kingdom last week. One concerns the exclusion of reporters from a briefing at Downing Street, the other a potential review of the BBC's funding model. Both raise concerns over a declining culture of respect of media independence in the United Kingdom. Continue reading >>
01 Februar 2020

Die vollendete Trennung

Gestern haben die Brexiteers endlich bekommen, was sie wollten: Seit Mitternacht mitteleuropäischer Zeit ist Großbritannien nicht mehr Mitglied der EU. Ich war in London an diesem Tag, den hier tausende EU-Gegner*innen gefeiert haben. Und ehrlich gesagt, es war weniger spektakulär als all die Bilder es nahelegen. Was bleibt, ist ein Gefühl des Unwirklichen. Continue reading >>
24 Januar 2020

Was qualmt denn da so komisch?

Über Polen, Russland und andere "gelenkte Demokratien", UK und andere (noch) nicht gelenkte Demokratien. Und Deutschland. Und Europa. Und, erwähnte ich das schon? natürlich Polen. Continue reading >>

Have you noticed that burnt smell?

On Poland, Russia and other "guided democracies", the UK and other not (yet) guided democracies. And on Germany. Oh, and have I mentioned Poland? And on Poland. Continue reading >>
20 Januar 2020

The Return of Power-Sharing in Northern Ireland

After three years power-sharing government has returned to Northern Ireland following extensive discussions and the recent publication of a document by the British and Irish governments. It is a lengthy text containing many proposals, plans and initiatives; the relative incoherence is evidence of the conflicting challenges faced. At the core of the dilemma is how to encourage the representatives of the two main communities in Northern Ireland (nationalist-unionist) to share power once again. Continue reading >>
21 Dezember 2019

Why Scotland’s Journey to Independence Needs to Include another Stop in Westminster

Much as some of its members might wish it otherwise, the Scottish Parliament is a parliament of limited legislative competence, and it is not unlikely that not having the power to legislate for an independence referendum is among those limits. Continue reading >>
20 Dezember 2019

Avoiding the next Brexit Cliff-Edge

Boris Johnson wants to legally exclude the prolongation of the extension period of the Withdrawal Agreement. The way to prolong it nevertheless would be an amendment of the Withdrawal Agreement itself. Some argue now that any other way to change the transition period than its prolongation by the JC is legally impossible. Another reading of the legal situation is, however, supportable. Continue reading >>
19 Dezember 2019

Back to the Future?

Although the UK has appeared to move from one constitutional crisis to the next during this year, there has been a clear direction of travel: 2019 saw both the legislature and the courts strengthening their checks over the executive. The Conservative Party Manifesto may be interpreted as an attempt to reverse this direction of travel and reinstate the executive at the centre of the Constitution. Continue reading >>
18 Dezember 2019

Brexit and the CJEU: why the Opinion of the Court Should be Sought as a Matter of Emergency

With the comfortable majority he managed to secure in the Commons, Boris Johnson is now very likely to be able to push through the British Parliament the withdrawal agreement he negotiated with the European Union back in October. Provided that the European Parliament greenlights it quickly enough, it may well come into force by 31 January 2020, deadline of the last extension decision agreed between the EU-27 and the UK. However, one actor of the process seems to have been forgotten: the Court of Justice of the European Union. This could end up being a huge mistake. Continue reading >>
14 Dezember 2019

The Failure of the Left to Grasp Brexit

Thursday’s General Election was a bad day for the Labour Party, it spelled the end of Remainism and signalled a historic defeat for the Left. There needs to be serious reflection on all of this because the repercussions are severe and wide-ranging, and broader lessons must be learned, not just for the UK but elsewhere. It turned out, contrary to much expert assessment, that the 2016 referendum was, in fact, binding. The Left failed to grasp this and the underlying disconnect it signified. Continue reading >>
13 Dezember 2019

The Choice of Our Time

In which I worry an awful lot about the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Continue reading >>
03 November 2019

Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement Fails Romanian and Bulgarian Migrant Workers

Romanian and Bulgarian nationals might not be British workers, but they are nevertheless workers. And both the EU and the UK have an ethical responsibility to outline provisions so that Brexit does not further marginalize the very same group of workers who already face discrimination in the British labour market. Continue reading >>
02 November 2019

Scotland, Brexit and Independence

The past month has been important for Brexit developments, with UK Prime Minister Johnson attempting a ‘last minute’ Brexit deal with the EU. In particular, arrangements concerning Northern Ireland have featured prominently. But now, all appears to have been set aside for a December UK general election. However, the UK is composed of four nations, and Scotland’s position in the UK union, often ignored in the Brexit context, now appears near to ‘tipping point’, especially after First Minister Sturgeon’s recent  confirmation that Scotland would hold an independence referendum in 2020. Continue reading >>
23 Oktober 2019

Fools Rush Out

Few actions when done quickly are done well – and law-making has certainly never been one of them. Late in the evening of 22 October, the House of Commons was asked to approve of a legislative programme which would only have allowed it three days to consider, debate and amend a law which is bound to radically alter the constitutional, political, and economic foundations of the UK. This programme was rightly rejected. Continue reading >>
21 Oktober 2019

Brexit, Democracy and Peace in Northern Ireland

How to give the people of Northern Ireland a democratic say over the new legal arrangements that will apply to them under the Withdrawal Agreement? Given the deeply divided nature of Northern Irish society, this is a legal, political and constitutional conundrum. The WA, exceptionally for an EU/international treaty, sets out a complex mechanism regulating how the Northern Ireland Assembly may vote in the future to grant or withhold democratic consent to the terms of the WA as it applies to Northern Ireland. However, this mechanism may yet prove to be a recipe for future political conflict. Continue reading >>
08 Oktober 2019

The People Have Voted, Now Let the People Speak

The Brexit stalemate is unlikely to wither. In a smart spin, distracting from the unlawfulness of the Parliament shutdown, the blame for not delivering Brexit is now put on the Parliament. The Parliament and “the establishment” are pitted against the will of the people. Since the 2016 referendum, however, provided for no clear procedural or substantive mandate, no form of Brexit, including remain, can claim its legitimacy based on the “will of the people” unless there is a second referendum. Continue reading >>
02 Oktober 2019

Dealing with a Rogue UK Prime Minister

In the current “Brexit” crisis, the EU should strive to achieve a smooth agreement-based process. This is the only way to ensure that the intricate web binding the UK to the EU is not ripped up without a reliable substitute. Boris Johnson’s priority to withdraw the UK on 31 October "do or die“ is next to impossible to reconcile with that aim. Domestically, it will be difficult to halt Johnson’s no-deal plan. But what about the EU? Indeed, there are several measures the EU could take to deal with a rogue UK Prime Minister and to make a smooth withdrawal more likely. Continue reading >>
01 Oktober 2019

The Rule of Law, not the Rule of Politics

On 24 September 2019, just two weeks after Parliament had been controversially prorogued by Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, the UK Supreme Court handed down a unanimous judgment holding that such prorogation was ‘unlawful, null, and of no effect’. Parliament was not and had never been prorogued. But this is not likely to be the end of such questioning of the fundamentals of the constitution and – in particular – the limits of executive power. Continue reading >>
30 September 2019

An Alternative to the Brexit Backstop: An All-Ireland “Common No-Custom Area” under Art. 24 GATT

In order to resolve the current stalemate in the brexit negotiations, we propose to establish a “Common No-Custom Area” in Ireland applicable only to products originating in either part of the island. This special regime conforms to the Frontier Traffic exception of Art. 24 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT/WTO) and builds on the “precedent” of Cyprus where a similar regime has been in place since 2004. This practical solution takes into account that a major part of intra-Ireland trade is made up of products originating in either part of the island. Continue reading >>
29 September 2019

Is Brexit a Game?

Can Boris Johnson's and Dominic Cumming's Brexit strategy be made plausible by means of game theory? I think not. It seems too simple to present the current situation as a two-party game, with the UK (or Boris Johnson) on one side and the EU on the other. In reality, Johnson faces two opposite players—one being the EU, the other the hard Brexit opponents and the Supreme Court at home. Continue reading >>
25 September 2019

A Constitutionally Momentous Judgment That Changes Practically Nothing?

The Supreme Court’s judgment in Cherry/Miller (No 2) that the prorogation of Parliament was unlawful, null and of no effect was a bold move as a matter of public law. It represents a constitutional court willing to assert its authority as guardian of the constitution. But although potentially of long-term constitutional moment, it changes very little with regard to the fundamental constitutional and political issue of Britain’s membership of the European Union. Continue reading >>
24 September 2019

Boris Johnson’s Strategy of Assured Mutual Destruction: Crazy but not Irrational

One of the frequent equivocal “courtesy” titles that has been awarded to Boris Johnson these days is that of plunger or reckless gambler. Boris Johnson may be many things — his language coarse, his behavior ruthless — but if you analyze his behavior in the current Brexit affair from a decision theoretic angle there is a rational interpretation for his seemingly irrational approach. Continue reading >>

Why the UK’s Government’s Demands on the Irish Backstop Would Violate the Sovereignty of the EU-27

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has asked the European Council President in a letter for reciprocal ‘binding legal guarantees’ not to put in place infrastructure, checks, or controls at the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. The significance of this has been amplified by the European Parliament’s resolution that it will not consent to any Withdrawal Agreement without an Irish Backstop, in direct contravention to the UK’s position. This post will argue that the EU legal order places constraints on this option. Ireland would be in breach of EU law if it followed this course, and the EU institutions have no discretion to suspend these legal obligations. Continue reading >>
21 September 2019

Justiciable but not Necessarily Illegal

The UK Supreme Court is about to decide the fate of the UK Government’s decision to prorogue Parliament. Two are the main issues: First, justiciability – whether the Government’s decision can be subject to judicial scrutiny or whether it lies beyond the Judiciary’s remit. Second, if judicial review is available, whether the Government’s decision is lawful. Although the two issues prima facie appear to be distinct, in this case they are intertwined. I believe that the issue of prorogation in this case is justiciable and that the Government’s decision to prorogue falls within the legal boundaries of the Constitution. Continue reading >>
16 September 2019

Where Power Lies or Where Power Lied?

Tomorrow, on Tuesday 17 September, the UK Supreme Court will be asked to consider appeals from the Court of Session in Scotland, and the High Court in England on the question of whether prime minister Boris Johnson’s advice to the Queen to prorogue parliament was lawful. Such a question will oblige the court to consider foundational questions of the separation of powers and the division between law and politics. It will also have to decide whether the motives of executive decision-making can be judged against principles of parliamentary sovereignty, democracy and the rule of law. If the Supreme Court finds the advice was unlawful, an even more difficult question arises in what sort of order may be given to remedy such a legal wrong: can the court order Parliament to return to a session which has ended, or the Queen to ‘un-prorogue’? Continue reading >>
14 September 2019

The UK Constitution and Brexit – Five Brief External Observations

As a constitutional lawyer one therefore cannot help but ask: What is happening to the British Constitution? What is going on with the political and parliamentary culture of a nation so proud of its parliamentary history? And what about the Queen? In the following, I would therefore like to share five very brief and somewhat unsystematic observations of these recent developments from a German perspective. Continue reading >>
06 September 2019

A Matter of Confidence

On lying without expecting belief and other harbingers of constitutional doom. Continue reading >>
04 September 2019

Schroedinger’s Backstop

Weiler, Sarmiento and Faull suggest that the best way to avoid a no-deal Brexit, even at the 11th hour, would be to adopt “a regime of dual autonomy”. EU officials said that this proposal was "inadequate and nowhere near the landing zone". But we can also entertain the thought that reciprocity or symmetry is indeed a necessary if not a sufficient condition for the backstop compass to lead us to a landing zone. Six ingredients need to be added to the mix, however. Continue reading >>
03 September 2019

Nostalgische Justizstaatsskepsis

Jonathan Sumption ist einer der schillerndsten Intellektuellen des Vereinigten Königreichs. In seinem neuen Buch kritisiert er, wie das „Imperium des Rechts“ immer größere Landgewinne verzeichnet und in immer mehr Bereiche des täglichen Lebens vordringt. „Trials of the State“ ist wie ein Volkshochschulkurs im Granteln über den Traditionsverfall im Recht einer modernen Gesellschaft mit ihrem inhärenten Drang zur Verrechtlichung. Continue reading >>
02 September 2019

The Next Few Days Will Reveal where the Heart of Power Lies in the British Constitution

Were the UK government to ignore a Supreme Court judgment finding the advice to prorogue illegal, or even refuse to recognise an Act of Parliament directing action to prevent a no-deal Brexit, this would be a constitutional crisis. This will bring all institutions into conflict – most immediately the crown, which may be obligated (one way or another) to make an extremely polarising political choice. Continue reading >>
31 August 2019

Boris and the Queen: Lessons from Canada

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s advice to the Queen that she prorogue Parliament for several weeks has sparked vociferous controversy. The unfortunate situation, which threatens to do real damage to constitutional, political and social relationships, has some analogues in former British dominions such as Canada. Continue reading >>
30 August 2019

Backstop Alternatives: Examining the “We Cannot Trust the Brits” Excuse

Last week, together with two colleagues, Daniel Sarmiento and Sir Jonathan Faull, we published a plan which could avoid a no-deal Brexit. It is to one reaction, attributed in the Press to anonymous Commission sources that I wish to react. And I do not do this solely or even mainly in order to defend the viability of our particular Proposal. I do so because I fear that this same reaction of these anonymous EU officials will meet any proposal for "alternative arrangements" to be put on the table by the UK government. Continue reading >>
29 August 2019

Prorogued until October?

The British government yesterday secured a prorogation of Parliament from the Queen. Parliament will stand prorogued no earlier than Monday 9th September and no later than Thursday 12th September 2019 to Monday 14th October 2019. For many commentators the weeks from now until 12 September and from 14 October to 31 October (the day the United Kingdom exits the European Union) were crucial. It tipped the balance of the prorogation from blindingly unconstitutional to constitutionally dubious, but permissible. Regardless of whether one finds this line of reasoning convincing, there is a threat that this prorogation can be extended indefinitely that has been largely overlooked: the Prorogation Act 1867. Continue reading >>
26 August 2019
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An Offer the EU and UK Cannot Refuse II: FAQ

We have received many comments and questions to our Proposal on avoiding a No-Deal Brexit. The following are the most frequently asked questions with our replies. Continue reading >>
22 August 2019
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An Offer the EU and UK Cannot Refuse

The EU reasonably expects a guarantee that Brexit will not compromise the integrity of its customs and regulatory territory. Hence its insistence on the Backstop. The UK reasonably expects a guarantee that it will not be locked into a permanent Customs (and regulatory) Union with the EU. Hence its rejection of the Backstop. The resulting deadlock is hurling both parties into a No-Deal Brexit. This proposal, which includes features which have never been discussed, will guarantee the integrity and autonomy of the EU’s and UK’s respective customs and regulatory territories, and will require neither a Customs Union between the two nor a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Continue reading >>
18 Juli 2019

Prorogation is a Paper Tiger, but Time is the Elephant

There are 15 weeks left until the UK’s scheduled departure from the EU. A new leader of the Conservative party, and so de facto Prime Minister, will be chosen by party members and presented to Parliament just before it plans to rise for summer recess on 25 July. A point of distinction between the two candidates for Conservative leadership is on the exercise of a power to prorogue Parliament in order to ensure the UK’s withdrawal on 31 October 2019: Jeremy Hunt will not use the power, Boris Johnson will not rule it out. The threat of prorogation, if serious, could prove a catalyst for constitutional crisis. Continue reading >>
01 Juni 2019

Lies in Politics

On Boris Johnson, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and other active or passive issues of constitutional truthfulness. Continue reading >>
24 Mai 2019

#DeniedMyVote too: Brits in France, the European Elections and the Council of State

European Elections Day in the United Kingdom has been stained by revelations that many EU citizens were unable to vote due to various clerical errors, widely reported on Twitter with the hashtag #DeniedMyVote. It seems that something along the same lines, though on a smaller scale, happened to UK citizens residing in other Member States of the European Union, for example in France. Continue reading >>
19 April 2019

Brexit and the Politics of Law-Making

Should MPs be able to legislate contrary to the wishes of the government of the day? The Cooper Bill has raised fundamental questions over the relationship between law and politics in the United Kingdom. Continue reading >>
16 April 2019

After the Second Brexit Extension: What Now?

Unless the Withdrawal Act is adopted after all, the UK will need to elect MEPs in May. It is unlikely, however, that European Parliament elections will help to resolve the political impasse in Westminster. Hence, something else will have to move. Continue reading >>
06 April 2019

Unconstitutional Prorogation

On 1 April, the British Parliament again failed to agree on a plan for withdrawal from the European Union. It has now been suggested that the government should prorogue Parliament until after 12 April in order to terminate the current parliamentary debate. This would effectively silence Parliament to achieve its preferred version of Brexit without regard to principles of democracy and representative and responsible government. Continue reading >>
29 März 2019

‘Our Precious Union’: The Backstop and the Constitutional Integrity of the UK

The decision of the Prime Minister Theresa May to stand down if the Parliament approves the Withdrawal Agreement has led a number of passionate proponents of Brexit including Boris Johnson to change their view of the deal. Still, the Democratic Unionist Party said on Wednesday that the Brexit deal and in particular the backstop posed ‘an unacceptable threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom.’ This is significant not only because the DUP is in a confidence-and-supply arrangement with the Government but also because a number of ardent Brexiteers such as Jacob Rees-Mogg have said that their stance towards the deal depends on DUP’s position. In light of another meaningful vote, one has to wonder whether the DUP’s fears concerning the threat of the backstop to the constitutional integrity of the UK are justified. Continue reading >>

Protecting the EU from a Kill Switch: Why EU Law Does Not Require EP Elections in the UK

According to the EU, postponing Brexit beyond May 23 legally requires UK elections for the European Parliament. If no elections are held, the argument goes, the new European Parliament would not be legally constituted. Yet, on closer inspection, this conclusion is not as legally convincing as it appears. Continue reading >>
26 März 2019

Brexit ohne Bundestag?

Aus dem Brexit ergeben sich fundamentale Änderungen an der Architektur der Europäischen Union. Hätte der Bundestag am Austrittabkommen und an der anvisierten Verlängerung der britischen EU-Mitgliedschaft beteiligt werden müssen? Continue reading >>
22 März 2019

The Bercow Bombshell: Political Constitutionalism in Action

In this post, I defend the constitutional logic of Speaker's intervention. In a constitutional system such as the UK, which largely depends on political institutions and norms to check the executive, it is entirely appropriate – indeed, desirable – that the Speaker identify, interpret and enforce such norms to defend the institutional interests of the House of Commons and basic values of parliamentary democracy. Continue reading >>
20 März 2019

Wege aus dem Brexit-Chaos: Weshalb die EU die Initiative ergreifen sollte

Das Vereinigte Königreich hat sich seit der Entscheidung für den Brexit im Juni 2016 nicht gerade als Musterbeispiel für gutes Regieren präsentiert. Dennoch: Die EU sollte dem Vereinigten Königreich noch einmal entgegenkommen und ein Angebot machen, das eine Mehrheit für den Ausstiegsvertrag im britischen Unterhaus doch noch ermöglicht. Jetzt ist politische Führung gefragt. Continue reading >>
26 Februar 2019

The House of Commons’ Last Chance at Taking Back Control?

On Wednesday 27 February, MPs will have another opportunity to debate an amendable motion on the Government’s approach to Brexit. The debate on Wednesday is likely to focus on the plan put forward by Yvette Cooper MP (Labour) and Oliver Letwin MP (Conservative). They want MPs to have a legally binding say on whether the Prime Minister seeks an extension to Article 50’s two-year negotiating period. The opportunity to approve or reject the Cooper-Letwin on Wednesday represents the most important Brexit decision that the Commons has taken since the deal was rejected on 15 January. Continue reading >>
11 Februar 2019

National Security and Investment Screening: the UK proposal and its problems

In its white paper published in July 2018, the government has acknowledged the key role of foreign investment for the UK’s growth and development, whilst also noting that ‘a small number of investment activities, mergers and transactions in the UK economy pose a risk to our national security.’ The aim of the proposed reforms is to ensure that in these cases the UK government is able to intervene in order to prevent or mitigate such risks. Continue reading >>
10 Februar 2019

Why Referendums in Ireland Work Better than in the UK

Former UK prime minister Gordon Brown has recommended the Irish innovation of the citizens’ assembly to inform and guide public opinion. Theresa May, too, included a glancing reference to the notion in her recent House of Commons speech. They are mistaken, though, if they believe that this formula has much to offer in the UK. Continue reading >>
07 Februar 2019

Disastrous Stability: Brexit as a Constitutional Crisis

The reason Continental Europe so often misunderstands what is happening in the UK is that it views events there either as developments in an international negotiation or as a crisis of the Tory party. The reality is that we are witnessing a constitutional system in crisis. One of the oldest constitutional systems in the world is trying to digest three paradigm shifts – and it is trying to do so in one gulp. Continue reading >>
03 Februar 2019

Collateral Damage? Der Brexit und das Europaparlament

Sollen die EU 27 dem Vereinigten Königreich eine Fristverlängerung für den Brexit zugestehen? Das würde die Europawahlen im Mai gefährden, und damit die Verfassung der EU. Der Austritt des Vereinigten Königreichs am 29. März 2019, mit oder ohne Austrittsabkommen, ist als Ende mit Schrecken einem Schrecken ohne klares Ende vorzuziehen. Damit die EU nicht auch noch Schaden nimmt. Continue reading >>
28 Januar 2019

Not the Meaningful Vote: a Guide to the Role of the Commons on Tuesday

On 15 January, the Commons rejected the Government’s Brexit deal. On Tuesday 29 January, the Commons will consider the Government’s response to this rejection. This will be in many respects an unusual constitutional event. Continue reading >>
10 Januar 2019

Brexit and the Speaker of the House of the Commons: Do the Ends Justify the Means?

Yesterday, the Speaker of the UK House of Commons decided to allow an amendment to the Brexit timetable to be selected and voted upon by the Commons, in flat contradiction of the Commons’ rules and against the advice of his senior clerks. In this post, I outline the constitutional context which helps to explain why the Speaker took his decision, even if it does not justify the way in which the decision was taken. Continue reading >>
12 Dezember 2018

The Strange Case of the Publicity of the Brexit Legal Advice

One of the most remarkable episodes of the most remarkable Brexit saga is the strange case of the publicity of the Brexit legal advice. The actions of Theresa May’s government seem to aim at reducing both popular and democratic sovereignty to an empty shell before the incumbent Prime Minister and her cabinet are kicked out of power. However, the case of the publicity of legal advice is indeed strange not only on account of what has transpired on the British isles, but also of what has not happened on the continent. Continue reading >>
10 Dezember 2018

Sovereign Choices: The CJEU’s Ruling on Exit from Brexit

In today’s Wightman judgment, the CJEU has ruled that a Member State may unilaterally revoke its notified intention to withdraw from the EU prior to that withdrawal taking effect. The Court is clearly signalling that membership of the European Union, and the rights and responsibilities which come with it, is voluntary. As political messages go, that is a pretty big message. Continue reading >>

The Meaningful Vote on Brexit: the End of the Beginning or the Beginning of the End?

Tomorrow, the House of Commons will, barring a last minute delay, be the stage for the conclusion of the most dramatic parliamentary debate of the Brexit process so far: the meaningful vote on the Brexit deal. In strict constitutional terms the question is simple: will MPs decide to approve the motion that is legally required (by the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018) to enable the Withdrawal Agreement to be ratified before exit day? However, the political and procedural reality is, as one would expect, less simple. Continue reading >>
07 Dezember 2018

Can an Art. 50 TEU withdrawal notice be revoked? How Advocate General Bordona offered a legal Trojan horse to Union law

In his opinion given in the Case Wightman et. al., Advocate General Bordona pleads for the possibility to revoke the notification of withdrawal. Although it may be politically and economically desirable to keep the UK in the Union, this does not justify the introduction of a “legal Trojan horse” into the European law order by interpreting the European treaties in a one-sided manner. Continue reading >>
04 Dezember 2018

Exit vom Brexit?

Das EuGH-Verfahren Wightman hat heute seinen vorläufigen Höhepunkt erreicht: Zum ersten Mal äußerte sich mit Generalanwalt Manuel Campos Sánchez-Bordona ein Vertreter des Gerichtshofs zu der Frage, ob das Vereinigte Königreich den Austrittsprozess einseitig beenden könne („Exit vom Brexit“). Die Antwort des Generalanwalts ist grundsätzlich zu begrüßen, weitere Klarstellungen werden aber nötig sein. Continue reading >>
15 November 2018

On Thin Ice: the Role of the Court of Justice under the Withdrawal Agreement

Her alleged red line of bringing “an end to the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice in Britain” was always going to be a problem for Theresa May: After all, the UK’s commitment to comply with certain EU rules would inevitably mean that the ECJ’s interpretations of these rules would have to be binding on the UK. It is thus no surprise that the Withdrawal Agreement provides for the jurisdiction of the ECJ in various places. What is perhaps more of a surprise – and surely a negotiation win for the UK – is the EU’s legally problematic concession of an arbitration mechanism to resolve inter-party disputes over the interpretation of the Withdrawal Agreement. Continue reading >>

Safety Net, Trap or Trampoline – Will the Backstop Lead to a No Deal Brexit?

Following yesterday’s announcement that the UK and the EU have agreed a revised text of the draft Withdrawal Agreement, the political fallout in the UK has begun with the UK Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab’s resignation from the Government. In his resignation letter, it is the so-called ‘backstop’ arrangements to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland that appears to be the primary cause of discontent. Continue reading >>
20 Oktober 2018

The Bakery as battleground

How should the modern liberal state reconcile the demands of equality and religious belief? It appears that the new battleground is not at the pulpit or the ballot, but at the … bakery. In Lee v Ashers Baking Company Ltd the UK Supreme Court has delivered an artificial reasoning riddled with conceptual confusion. Continue reading >>
08 Oktober 2018

Can An Article 50 Withdrawal Notice be Revoked? The CJEU is Asked to Decide

The legal issue of whether the United Kingdom can change its mind and revoke – unilaterally – its notified intention to withdraw from the European Union has been a matter of academic and professional conjecture since the 2016 referendum. An authoritative interpretation of the issue may be delivered by Christmas following the lodging on 3 October 2018 of a request by the Scottish Court of Session for a preliminary ruling in Case C-621/18 Wightman and Others.  Continue reading >>
18 September 2018

Big Brother Watch and others v. the United Kingdom: A Victory of Human Rights over Modern Digital Surveillance?

The European Court of Human Rights delivered its long-awaited judgment in Big Brother Watch and others v. the United Kingdom. While this landmark decision marks a victory for the fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of expression over surveillance, it is also a missed opportunity for the Strasbourg Court. Continue reading >>
14 September 2018

WTO Option in Practice: How a No-Deal Brexit Would Seriously Damage Key UK Industries

Whilst a no-deal Brexit seemed unrealistic in the immediate aftermath of the UK’s referendum, it seems that now the UK is bracing itself for a Brexit without a withdrawal or transition agreement. What would that mean for the UK's trade relations with the EU and other countries and how would it affect some of the UK's key industries? Continue reading >>
29 August 2018

Disenfranchised by Accident: the Brexit Initiative and Brits abroad

On the 23rd of July 2018, the European Commission registered a European Citizens’ Initiative called “Permanent European Union Citizenship”, with the objective, in the context of Brexit, to ask the Commission to “propose means to avoid risk of collective loss of EU citizenship and rights, and assure all EU citizens that, once attained, such status is permanent and their rights acquired”. The aim of this initiative is, for British citizens, to retain European Union citizenship post Brexit. However, paradoxically enough, a considerable number of British expats, who are the main concerned, are legally unable to support this initiative (or any other as it turns out) because of a legal conundrum. Continue reading >>
12 Juni 2018

Suffering from Withdrawal – Controversy in the UK EU (Withdrawal) Bill

Beginning today, the EU (Withdrawal) Bill (EUWB) will return to the UK House of Commons, where all 15 amendments made to the EUWB by the House of Lords will be debated over only two days. The EUWB is arguably one of the most contentious and complex pieces of legislation to be presented to the British Parliament in this century. The amendments are a response to the concerns regarding the broad discretion across an unknown expanse of law with an almost-unfettered use of legislative power by the executive. Continue reading >>
08 Juni 2018

If ‚Vote Leave‘ Broke the Law, Could Brexit be Void?

Could Brexit be declared void by a court, and article 50 revoked, if there were major irregularities in the vote? Evidence is emerging of possible fraud, and criminal acts by Vote Leave, Cambridge Analytica, and Aggregate IQ: illegal overspending, psychologically profiling and targeting people with online ads, based on stolen data. Now, the legal opinion of three barristers has become public on how Vote Leave, and its organiser Dominic Cummings, committed criminal offences. Continue reading >>
07 Mai 2018

The Right to Fair Trial and the Rise of Sensitive Intelligence Evidence: Responses from the Dutch and UK Courts

Writing extra-judicially, Lord Justice Brown once described the typical court […] Continue reading >>
01 Mai 2018

Has Parliament Taken Charge of Brexit?

The UK House of Lords has adopted amendments to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill that would make the conclusion of a withdrawal agreement contingent on parliamentary approval. It is not at all clear which, if any, of the Lords amendments will survive in the House of Commons, and we may not find out for a while. It may be premature to conclude that Parliament is now fully in charge of the Brexit process. What the amendments show, however, is that Parliament can assert control if it chooses to do so. Continue reading >>
16 Februar 2018

Das Wissensproblem im Asylprozess und wie es behoben werden kann

Im Asylrecht stehen die Gerichte regelmäßig vor einem Wissensproblem: Um über den Schutzanspruch von Asylbewerbern urteilen zu können, müssen sie wissen, wie es generell um die Verfolgungssituation in den Herkunftsländern bestellt ist. Das ist nicht ihr Metier, denn ihre Hauptaufgabe ist die Streitentscheidung im Einzelfall. Wie kann das am Einzelfall orientierte Gericht der Aufgabe, generelles Wissen über die Herkunftsländer zu generieren, gerecht werden? Wie kann es insbesondere vermeiden, dass von Fall zu Fall inkonsistent entschieden wird, die Rechtssicherheit auf der Strecke bleibt und es zu einer „Asyl-Lotterie“ kommt? Continue reading >>
02 Februar 2018

With a little help from Henry VIII

There are few legislative assemblies in Europe which can call themselves with proud sovereign. The Principle of Parliamentary Sovereignty is the most important part of UK constitutional law. It implies that all legislation derives from the superior legal authority of Parliament and hence it is the job of the Members of Parliament to create, abolish and change the law. Well, since Henry VIII this principle is no longer entirely true, and it is currently challenged again by the future “Great Repeal Bill”. Continue reading >>
06 Dezember 2017

What’s in a name? A Brexit we can all enjoy

Northern Ireland will have a ,hard Brexit' as any other part of the UK and, at the same time, be subject to a ,regulatory alignment' with the Republic of Ireland and, hence, the EU. Such is the elegance of this solution, that one might be tempted to mistake it for a genuine policy innovation. In fact, using a made up name for something that you are already doing and calling it ‘new’ has a long pedigree and has been used aplenty. Continue reading >>
30 Oktober 2017

Prisoner Voting and Power Struggle: a Never-Ending Story?

On 29 October 2017, it was announced that the UK authorities are planning to revoke the blanket ban on prisoner voting and allow those who are sentenced to under a year in prison to go home for a day and vote. This was done to ensure the compliance with the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Hirst No 2 which was delivered in 2005. It took the UK government twelve years to come up with a proposal that would put English law in line with the case law of the European Court of Human Rights. Continue reading >>
20 Oktober 2017

The Irony of Brexit for Immigration Control

Immigration was a hot topic throughout the Brexit debate. ‘To take back control’ was a prominent slogan. While Brexit can facilitate legal control over the entry and stay of EU citizens, it need not necessarily make it easier for the UK to control the immigration of third-country nationals, including asylum seekers. It might even, paradoxically, render control of immigration by non-Europeans more difficult to some extent. Continue reading >>
09 Oktober 2017

Can Brexit be stopped under EU Law?

Ominous clouds are gathering and the terrain underfoot increasingly resembles a quagmire on the Brexiteers ‘sunlit uplands’. It is therefore unsurprising that the chatter about revoking the Art. 50 notification to withdraw from the EU – itself waxing and waning since the referendum vote – has become louder in recent days; spurred on by a freedom of information request seeking the government’s legal advice on the question. Continue reading >>
24 August 2017

Dispute Resolution after Brexit

When setting out her priorities for the Brexit negotiations in a speech at Lancaster House in January, Theresa May promised to ‘bring an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Britain.’  This forcefully formulated ‘red line’ turned into a headache for the British negotiators as it was both somewhat misconceived – the ECJ’s preliminary reference procedure hardly results in jurisdiction ‘in Britain’ – and overly categorical ignoring both the likely content of the UK-EU withdrawal agreement and the shape of the future UK-EU relationship envisaged by her own government as a ‘new, deep and special partnership.’ Today’s paper on ‘enforcement and dispute resolution’ should therefore be welcomed as injecting a portion of realism and pragmatism in the debate over the ECJ. Continue reading >>
28 Juni 2017