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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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30 Januar 2021
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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 >>
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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
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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 >>
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04 Dezember 2020
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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08 April 2020
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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30 September 2019
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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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 >>
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16 Februar 2018
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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 >>
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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

One year after the Brexit Referendum: More, Fewer or No Referendums in Europe?

One year after Brexit, the issue of referendums seems to be everywhere: Their desirability cannot be described with a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’. There is simply more than one valid constitutional perspective in evaluating the case for or against referendums. Continue reading >>
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An Early Deal-Breaker? EU Citizens’ Rights in the UK after Brexit, and the Future Role of the European Court of Justice

The UK has finally made an offer to allow some EU citizens to retain some rights in the UK after Brexit. There are two sets of issues that arise: the substantive rights that will need to be agreed to, and the enforcement of these rights. The UK government confirmed that the arrangements on offer will be enshrined and enforceable in UK law, that commitments in the Withdrawal Agreement will have the status of international law, but that the CJEU will have no jurisdiction in the United Kingdom. Despite this, there remains much uncertainty. Continue reading >>
24 Juni 2017

The Brexit Divorce Bill – Großbritanniens Welt der alternativen Fakten

Der Brexit könnte für das Vereinigte Königreich teuer werden. Schätzungen gehen von bis zu 100 Mrd. Euro aus. Darüber wird in den seit dem 19. Juni 2017 offiziell laufenden Austrittsverhandlungen zu sprechen sein. Bisher wollten die Britten allerdings von alledem nichts wissen. Sie glauben gar, demnächst einen Scheck aus Brüssel zu erhalten. Der nachfolgende Beitrag möchte der rechtlichen Fundierung der britischen Gedankenwelt nachgehen. Schließlich macht es verhandlungstaktisch keinen kleinen Unterschied, ob Großbritannien lediglich moralisch oder auch rechtlich zur Zahlung einer Brexit divorce bill verpflichtet ist. Continue reading >>
10 Juni 2017

First Thoughts on the UK General Election Result 2017

The Faustian pact by the UK Tory Party with the Northern Irish DUP will bring all the messy and ugly history of Northern Irish sectarianism back into mainstream of our politics. My recipe for the Tory party to save itself from the damnation of Faust is for it to remove Theresa May "with all deliberate speed" and replace her as leader with Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party. Continue reading >>
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17 Mai 2017

The Singapore Silver Bullet

Is the CJEU's Opinion on the Singapore free trade agreement a boost for Brexit? After reading the Opinion my feeling is exactly the opposite. The Court has made a clever juggling exercise with Christmas presents for everybody. But in fact, the Court has saved the best Christmas present for itself. And there are hardly any gifts for Britain. In fact, the Opinion contains a paragraph that could blow up the entire Brexit process. Continue reading >>
09 Mai 2017

Brexit Lawsuits, But Not As You Know Them 

Calling in the lawyers is becoming a frequent response to the challenges of Brexit. While court actions on matters of constitutional law are well known, there is another, less publicised, avenue of legal resistance. The consequence: the Brexit bill is about to become a lot bigger. Continue reading >>
19 April 2017

Of course you can still turn back! On the revocability of the Article 50 notification and post-truth politics

The British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced yesterday the intention to call a ‘snap’ general election to be held on the 8th of June 2017. This announcement, which has caught literally everyone off-guard, makes some strategic sense if read together with another contention stressed by Prime Minister May: that there is no turning back from Brexit. Which is untrue, both from the legal and political point of view. To put it shortly, the PM is lying. Continue reading >>
31 März 2017

The Great Repeal Bill and the Charter of Fundamental Rights – not a promising start

On the day Brexit happens EU Law will be incorporated into the UK legal system, including the entirety of the Court of Justice’s case-law. This is a huge digestion of rules and judicial rulings, unprecedented in the way and speed in which it will take place. However, there is a piece of EU Law that will not be incorporated into UK Law. This is no ordinary or irrelevant piece. It is the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. It is another revealing sign of the impact that Brexit will have in the UK and, above all, for UK citizens and their rights. Continue reading >>
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30 März 2017

The Taming of Control – the Great Repeal Bill

Brexit is underway. For voters who wanted the UK to remain in the EU, the risk was how much would change after the UK leaves. For those who wanted the UK to leave the EU, the hope was that, indeed, much would change. Both sets of voters may be surprised at the efforts being placed on seeking continuity in governance. For Remain voters, while this may afford some comfort, it will simply reinforce the view that the better way of keeping things the same was for the UK to remain a Member State of the EU. For Leave voters, the outcome may be more ambiguous. Continue reading >>
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24 März 2017

After Article 50 and Before Withdrawal: Does Constitutional Theory Require a General Election in the United Kingdom Before Brexit?

On March 29th, Theresa May will notify the EU Council of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU. This is the result of the Brexit referendum which, for the first time in the United Kingdom’s constitutional history, has opened up a powerful new source of popular sovereignty as a social fact. It is necessary for the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom that this new stream of popular social legitimacy is realigned with the existing stream of Parliamentary Sovereignty. The most effective and desirable way in which to achieve this would be for a General Election to take place. Continue reading >>
13 März 2017

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. Continue reading >>
28 Februar 2017

Limiting the Constitutional Space of Scotland and Northern Ireland

Scotland might soon be having a second independence referendum, and Ireland is pushing for Northern Ireland rejoining the EU after Brexit. Why does the noble idea of a differentiated Brexit, that could absorb some of the tensions created by UK’s future withdrawal from the EU, seem to lose traction even within the political elites of Scotland and Northern Ireland? One possible answer might be that the UK political and constitutional framework does not provide for a supportive environment. In fact, the judgment of the Supreme Court in Miller points to the limits of the UK political and constitutional order to accommodate the demands of the devolved nations. Continue reading >>
17 Februar 2017

The EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill: Bargaining Chips on the Commons Table

EU citizens living and working in the UK will, according to the House of Commons, not be ensured a right of residency after Brexit, as the government wishes to use them as bargaining chips with Brussels - a move both strategically misguided and morally indefensible. Now, all eyes are on the House of Lords. Continue reading >>
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06 Februar 2017

The ‘Elegant Way’ of the Constitution

The Miller judgment will be famous for its affirmation of the rule of law as against an unaccountable and overreaching executive. But it should also be remembered for marking the recognition by the UK courts of the systematic nature of the British constitution. Continue reading >>
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03 Februar 2017

The Miller decision: Legal constitutionalism ends not with a bang, but a whimper

Miller was essentially a case which was argued before, and decided by, the court on the basis of the English Imperial constitutional tradition forged in the Victorian age. This judgment has made the political constitution of the devolved United Kingdom as a whole more unstable, more brittle, more fragile and more likely to break-up precisely because it denies the devolved nations’ institutions any legal right to participate in the Brexit process. Continue reading >>
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25 Januar 2017

Sailing uncharted waters – for how long? On transitional post-Brexit trade arrangements

Given the short timeframe for negotiating an exit agreement, the UK and the EU-27 may not be able to agree on new terms for their future trade relations before the UK’s formal exit from the EU takes effect. Consequently, many experts are pushing for a transitional arrangement. Continue reading >>
24 Januar 2017

Brexit in the Supreme Court: An Opportunity Missed?

For all that this case has been written-up in the media as a ‘defeat’ for the government, this was a case in which the Supreme Court passed up a significant opportunity to compensate for the UK’s newly imbalanced constitutional framework. Continue reading >>

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. Continue reading >>
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Europarecht, Prärogative und Devolution: Der UK Supreme Court entscheidet über den Brexit

In seinem heutigen Urteil zum Brexit hat der britische Supreme Court entschieden, dass die britische Regierung nur nach gesetzlicher Ermächtigung den Austritt aus der EU erklären darf. Die Mehrheit des Gerichts sieht das Unionsrecht als eigene Rechtsquelle an, die nur das Parlament trocken legen kann. Dass es das nun tun wird, steht außer Frage. Continue reading >>
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04 Januar 2017

Is Article 50 Reversible? On Politics Beyond Legal Doctrine

Can the United Kingdom, once it has declared its withdrawal from the EU, revoke this decision later on? This question is at the core of the ongoing case before the UK Supreme Court on Art. 50 TEU. I argue that revocability fits neatly in the letter and spirit of article 50 because of formal and substantive reasons. I further content that the Supreme Court decision may create a bifurcation in which interpretation of a key TEU provision may become purely an issue of domestic law. However, I further content that actors' political decisions have progressively framed a situation in which revocability does not seem politically possible. Continue reading >>
22 Dezember 2016

From Greenland to Svalbard: Scotland’s quest for a differentiated Brexit

On 20 December 2016, the Scottish Government released its blueprint on how Scotland can remain in the European Single Market post-Brexit. From the governing SNP’s point of view, the paper can be seen as a compromise given that it does not advocate Scottish independence. Instead, it proposes that the best outcome for the UK as a whole is to remain in the European Economic Agreement following the ‘Norway model’. It recognises, however, that in the current political constellation this seems unlikely. So, it argues for the continued membership of Scotland in the European Single Market. Continue reading >>
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12 Dezember 2016

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. Continue reading >>
25 November 2016

How the UK passed the most invasive surveillance law in democratic history

You might not have noticed thanks to world events, but the UK parliament recently approved the government’s so-called Snooper’s Charter and it will soon become law. This nickname for the Investigatory Powers Bill is well earned. It represents a new level and nature of surveillance that goes beyond anything previously set out in law in a democratic society. It is not a modernisation of existing law, but something qualitatively different, something that intrudes upon every UK citizen’s life in a way that would even a decade ago have been inconceivable. Continue reading >>
23 November 2016

Scotland, Catalonia and the Constitutional Taboo of Secession

The UK constitution does not allow Scotland to unilaterally secede in the case of Brexit - in that respect its situation is not unlike Catalonia's. Given the political nature of the UK uncodified constitution, it is almost unthinkable that a similar judicialisation of politics will occur in the UK as it did in Spain. However, unless Westminster takes seriously into account the demands of the devolved administrations in the Brexit negotiations, there is a real danger that a serious constitutional stalemate will occur. Continue reading >>
17 November 2016

Wahlkreisreform in UK: die Neuvermessung des Mehrheitswahlrechts

Wahlkreisreformen sind oft eine anrüchige Sache. Die Regierungsmehrheit gerät leicht in den Verdacht, sich die Wahlkreise zu ihrem eigenen Vorteil zurechtzuschneiden. Auch in Großbritannien gibt es laute Proteste der Opposition gegen die aktuellen Reformpläne der Tories. Doch wenn man genauer hinsieht, zeigt sich: die Demokratie im Vereinigten Königreich wird eher profitieren. Continue reading >>
10 November 2016

The Big Picture

In Europe, UK, and USA constitutional structures are proving unfit to respond to the challenges of the XXI century. Now is the time to ride on the constitutional moment for the all three of them. Continue reading >>

On the Slippery Slope to a ,People’s Court‘

Writes Matej Avbelj in High time for popular constitutionalism!, ‘The majority in our societies seems to be increasingly disconnected with the liberal values that especially the legal academia, but also the ruling political class – at least on a declaratory level – have taken for granted…’ Living as I do in the country in which one sees an increasing distaste for the European Convention of Human Rights and regular media criticism of the ‘unelected judges’ in Strasbourg – and that despite the fact that the judges of the Court are, in fact, elected from a slate of three by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe – I cannot help wondering whether the disconnect is anything very new. Continue reading >>
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08 November 2016

Miller, Brexit and the (maybe not to so evil) Court of Justice

As strange as this might sound, hardcore Brexiteers have now their closest and most reliable ally not at home. But in what they have considered to be, all these years, the evil, monstrous, devilish, undemocratic, unelected, corrupt and dictatorial Court of Justice of the European Union. Continue reading >>

The Article 50 Litigation and the Court of Justice: Why the Supreme Court must NOT refer

Is the UK Supreme Court in the current Brexit case obliged to refer to the Luxembourg Court? If that were the case, the conformity of any Member State’s EU exit with its own constitutional requirements would be open to review by the CJEU – and hence could no longer be qualified as an act of self-determination since a EU institution would have the final say on it. Continue reading >>
06 November 2016

The Article 50 Litigation and the Court of Justice: Why the Supreme Court must refer

Article 50 TEU says that member states decide to withdraw from the Union "according to their own constitutional requirements". It is for the Luxembourg Court to clarify what this means. Thus, in the current case on Brexit the UK Supreme Court is obliged to refer to the European Court of Justice. One could argue that this should never have been made a Union problem. But it was, and, like it or not, that makes it the Court of Justice’s problem too. Continue reading >>

Who Speaks in the Name of the People?  

The practice of using a referendum to justify the power of the executive has been used and abused throughout history. Napoleon who ruled like a plebiscitarian monarch can serve as the best counter example for contemporary liberal democratic regimes. All the institutions of the government, the executive, the parliament and the judiciary speak in the name of the people in our conception of the western democratic constitutionalism. It is only thanks to the checks and balances that the separation of powers provides in a conception of collaborative constitutionalism that we can avoid practices of misusing references to a supposed democratic legitimacy in view of derailing the operations of the government in a direction that is entirely out of control of democracy itself. Continue reading >>
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Brexit, Democracy and the Rule of Law

The decision of the High Court in London this week was a ruling not on whether Brexit should happen, but on how it can happen lawfully. There is nothing at all in the court’s judgment to block the will of the people, to reverse the result of the referendum, or to get in the way of Brexit. Nor is there anything inappropriate in turning to the courts to determine how Brexit can proceed in accordance with the rule of law. That said, as a lawyer I think the court’s ruling is wrong. Continue reading >>
04 November 2016

Enemies of the People?

"Enemies of the People": that is, according to the Daily Mail, what the High Court judges are. Joseph Stalin would have been wildly amused by this way of putting things… Leaving aside such 30s reminiscences, it seems to me too simple to reduce this phenomenon solely to the disgracefulness of the British boulevard press and Tory backbenchers. There is something more fundamental going on. Not only in the United Kingdom. But in the entire Western democratic constitutional space. Continue reading >>

Feinde des Volkes?

"Enemies of the People": So titelt die Daily Mail als Reaktion auf das gestrige Brexit-Urteil des High Court. An dieser Diktion hätte Josef Stalin seine helle Freude gehabt. Aber jenseits solcher 30er-Jahre-Reminiszenzen scheint es mir zu kurz gesprungen, dieses Phänomen allein auf die Verkommenheit der britischen Boulevardpresse und der snotty Tory-Elite zu reduzieren. Da geht etwas Grundlegenderes vor. Und zwar nicht allein im Vereinigten Königreich. Sondern im gesamten westlichen demokratisch-rechtsstaatlichen Verfassungsraum. Continue reading >>
03 November 2016

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. Continue reading >>
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Sovereignty means Sovereignty: Über den Verlust von Rechten entscheidet das Parlament

Großbritannien darf erst nach einem Parlamentsbeschluss aus der EU austreten. Das hat der englische High Court auf eine Klage von Bürgern hin entschieden. Bleibt die Entscheidung bestehen, könnte sie den Zeitplan für den EU-Austritt durcheinander bringen, noch bevor dieser eigentlich begonnen hat. Verhindert wird der Brexit aber höchstwahrscheinlich nicht mehr. Continue reading >>
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The High Court’s Brexit Decision: A Lesson in Constitutional Law for the UK Government

In today's Brexit decision, the High Court has delivered a tutorial on the UK constitution, exemplary in its clarity and reasoning. Its key finding: the government cannot take away rights that citizens enjoy in the EU and would be lost on withdrawal without involving Parliament. In failing to understand the constitution of its own country, the government was taught an embarrassing lesson today. Continue reading >>
02 November 2016

Why all Member States should clarify their Constitutional Requirements for Withdrawing from the EU

The UK’s ‘chaotic Brexit’ may perhaps be the inevitable result of being the first state to even contemplate withdrawal from the European Union. Regardless, the other Member States can now look to this uncertainty as something to avoid. By contrast to the United Kingdom’s current situation, they should look to the clarity of procedure for legitimate secession in Canada and seek to provide a similarly exhaustive statement of how the ‘constitutional requirements’ of Article 50 would be fulfilled in their own constitutional orders. Continue reading >>
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22 Oktober 2016

Why the Brexit debate might mark the end of Britain’s unwritten constitution

The current debate in the UK about Parliament's right to vote on the Art. 50 decision suggests that not only the Brexit decision may become subject to revision, but the uncodified constitution may become subject to scrutiny as well. So far, the absence of a written constitution was generally viewed as a sign of “stability of the British polity.” However, the Brexit contestations may change that, and, on the long run, the status of an ‘unwritten’ or ‘uncodified constitution’ may well come to an end. The present constitutional turn in British politics suggests that the long period of stability of the British polity is challenged, just as the Brexit campaign promised the contrary. Continue reading >>
12 Oktober 2016

Warum ein Opt-out aus der EMRK für britische Streitkräfte eher unwahrscheinlich ist

Die britische Premierministerin Theresa May will die Streitkräfte von den Verpflichtungen der Europäischen Menschenrechtskonvention befreien. Folgt daraus, dass Schadensersatzklagen von Opfern demnächst als unzulässig abgewiesen werden? Oder dass das Vereinigte Königreich nicht mehr an die EMRK gebunden ist, wenn es seine Streitkräfte in den Einsatz schickt? Wohl kaum. Continue reading >>
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07 Oktober 2016

Brexit – a Tragic Continuity of Europe’s Daily Operation

The British vote to leave the European Union came as a surprise and a shock. It has been understood as an aberration, as a triumph of populism and nationalism, in conflict with the ethos of the Union. But Brexit should not be understood as a mere aberration, but instead as one position on continuum of exhausted thinking about EU and (transnational) law in general. Continue reading >>
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03 Oktober 2016

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? Continue reading >>
30 September 2016

Triggering Art. 50 TEU: Interpreting the UK’s ‘own constitutional requirements’

Can the British government initiate the process of leaving the European Union without consulting Parliament? On September 28th the government released its legal position that the only constitutional way to give effect to the Brexit referendum result is through the exercise of the executive power. Some of the government's arguments appear to be on shaky grounds. The mere fact that the process has been caught up in legal wrangling before it has even begun shows that there is still a long, long road ahead before any sense of stability will return to British (constitutional) politics as well as the relationship between the UK and the EU in whatever form that may eventually take. Continue reading >>
17 August 2016
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Jein – eine fehlende Variante bei dem Brexit-Referendum

Großbritannien hat eine Schicksalsentscheidung getroffen. Zwar hat die Volksbefragung nach herrschender Meinung nur beratenden Charakter, doch hat die britische Regierung im Vorfeld ankündigte das Ergebnis zu befolgen und wird es daher kaum übergehen. „Brexit means Brexit“, sagte auch Theresa May, die neue britische Premierministerin und frühere Remain-Befürworterin. Was „Brexit“ bedeutet, bleibt aber unklar. Continue reading >>
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29 Juli 2016

INIS Free? Towards a Scots-Irish Union

A post Brexit union of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland would be one way of achieving what the majority of the electors of Northern Ireland and Scotland who voted in the Brexit referendum sought to achieve, namely to remain within the EU and retain their EU citizenship. Historically, there is considerable precedent for such a Scotch-Irish Union. Continue reading >>
26 Juli 2016

BrEXIT AND BreUK-UP

How to balance the aim of the UK to leave the European Union with the complex independence and border issues this would cause in Scotland and Northern Ireland? One possible scenario could be for Scotland to broker a five-year EFTA-EEA "naughty step" membership for the United Kingdom, at the end of which Scotland could itself become an independent EFTA-EEA member state and thus be well positioned to re-enter the European Union. Continue reading >>
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22 Juli 2016

10 (pro-EU) reasons to be cheerful after Brexit

As the dust continues to swirl around the momentous Brexit referendum result a month ago (and doesn’t show any signs of settling anytime soon) I suspect many EU sympathisers will be somewhere in the middle of the various stages of the Kübler-Ross Grief cycle: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. So, somewhat incongruosly, are the ‘leavers’. Whereas there are almost as many emotions being experienced on all sides as there are potential options on what will happen next both in terms of the UK’s future relationship with the EU as well as the future of the EU itself, in this post I want to set out a number of (pro-EU) reasons – some obvious, some optimistic, others wildly speculative – to be cheerful amidst the uncertainty created by the Brexit vote. Continue reading >>
20 Juli 2016

AG Saugmandsgaard Øe on Mass Data Retention: No Clear Victory for Privacy Rights

The opinion of the CJEU Attorney General on mass data retention has been long awaited by anyone interested in privacy rights, and more generally the relationship between states and their citizens during this period of an extended “war on terror”. While some civil rights groups have already claimed victory, on closer look the opinion of the AG is not an unmitigated success for privacy activists: It gives considerable discretion to member states to enact data retention provisions providing they meet the Digital Rights Ireland standard. Continue reading >>
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14 Juli 2016
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After Brexit: Time for a further Decoupling of European and National Citizenship?

According to the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, the issue of Scotland’s EU membership after Brexit is ‘a matter for the UK’. That statement is simply false: the future EU citizenship of UK nationals is not a domestic matter but an issue – perhaps the issue – for the Union as a whole to determine. Continue reading >>
13 Juli 2016

Like a Bargaining Chip: Enduring the Unsettled Status of EU Nationals Living in the UK

Yesterday, the UK Government has issued a statement to reassure EU nationals living in the UK as to their post-referendum status. While hundreds of EU nationals channel their relief through social media in welcoming the news and British businesses praise the Government for giving them the reassurance needed, to a more expert eye things seem much less reassuring. Continue reading >>
11 Juli 2016

Das Brexit-Referendum: Sieg für die Demokratie?

War das Referendum doch zumindest ein Sieg für die Demokratie? Im Ergebnis wohl nicht. Demokratietheoretisch darf die Kritik freilich nicht beim Ergebnis, sondern bei der Entscheidung für das Referendum ansetzen: War die Austrittsfrage eine für ein Referendum geeignete Frage, oder hätte diese dem Parlament vorbehalten sein müssen? Vieles spricht hier für Letzteres. Continue reading >>
06 Juli 2016

Calling Europe into Question: the British and the Greek referenda

On this day last year, Greeks woke up facing a referendum result that very few had expected. Almost a year later, on the 24th of June 2016, British and other Europeans woke up overwhelmingly surprised by the ‘Leave’ vote. Despite their significant differences, the Greek and the British referenda have some important things in common. Reading them together might have something to teach us about referenda on the EU—especially now that more people seem to be asking for one in their own country. Continue reading >>

Brexit and Art. 50: the Key lies in Luxembourg

A large British law firm has announced legal steps to ensure that the Art. 50 TEU procedure leading to EUV will be triggered by the British parliament. This might lead to a referral to the European Court of Justice. Continue reading >>
05 Juli 2016

Political Reductionism at its Best: the EU Institutions’ Response to the Brexit Referendum

In their reaction to the Brexit referendum, some EU institutions have shown a troubling understanding of law – law as the mere crystallisation of power relationships, norms as just technicalities, annoying obstacles standing between the political actors and their legitimate goals. This is profoundly wrong and dangerous. Continue reading >>
04 Juli 2016

Everything you need to know about Article 50 (but were afraid to ask)

After the Brexit referendum, the new prime minister cannot dodge the fact that Article 50 is the only legal way for the UK to secede and that he or she, therefore, has a duty to pull the trigger. Not to deploy Article 50 would result in an even more disorderly situation than we have now. Article 50 it is. And if it were done, it were best done quickly. Continue reading >>
01 Juli 2016

A Lame Duck for a Member State? Thoughts on the UK’s Position in the EU after the Brexit Vote

Despite the fact that nothing has technically speaking happened in legal terms, the UK’s journey out of the European Union has already commenced and is starting to have tangible legal consequences. Continue reading >>
30 Juni 2016

Populists chairing the European Commission and Parliament

No, the title of this post does not refer to a dystopia to come after the next European elections in 2019. It refers to the two presidents of today – Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz. Now why can they be seen as populists in some plausible way? In my view, this is because of the way in which they see politics and the role of the “people” in it. Continue reading >>
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29 Juni 2016

Sovereign and misinformed: Brexit as an exercise in democracy?

Rather than criticising the Brexit referendum as a decision-making tool because ‘the people’ don’t have the necessary expertise to take decisions of this magnitude, we should question the conditions in which many UK voters were called to express their opinion. They, like many all over the world, have seen the progressive hollowing-out of those basic rights that make voting the expression of the right to individual and collective self-rule in the first place. Continue reading >>
28 Juni 2016

England’s Difficulty; Scotland’s Opportunity

Rather than arguing over when and how Article 50 TEU might be activated and by whom, or whether the two year clock ticking for exit can be stopped once started, we need as responsible citizens in a democracy to face up in good faith to what many of us regard as an appalling result, and coalesce around pressing for the quickest possible conclusion of the least worst option which still respects the actual referendum result. Continue reading >>
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United no more: Constitutional Headaches ahead for the United Kingdom

Those who voted Brexit are now celebrating and singing ‘Rule Britannia’ in the streets. They are still dreaming. When they will wake up, they will have to face the facts: there is no Empire, and Brexit will not solve their economic problems. Immigrants will not be deported, and if foreigners decide to leave, this will not solve their problems either. One day, they will wake up to discover that the Kingdom is dis-United. Continue reading >>
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Scotland Can Veto Brexit (sort of …).

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that she would veto any attempt by a future British government to effect the withdrawal of the UK from the EU following the referendum result. This has raised a flurry of questioning of whether this is actually constitutionally permissible. In this blogpost I will argue why I think it is; that is that the Scottish Parliament does, constitutionally, have the power to use the constitution to attempt to veto an attempt by a British government to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union. Continue reading >>
27 Juni 2016

Brexit im europäischen Verfassungsverbund

Wer jetzt auf den raschen Vollzug der „Entscheidung“ vom 23. Juni drängt, tut dies im besten Interesse der Stabilität und der Sicherheit. Wer dagegen Zeit gibt, zur Besinnung zu kommen und richtige Konsequenzen zu ziehen, könnte dem langfristigen Interesse Europas besser dienen. Continue reading >>

A Disunited Kingdom: two Nations in, two Nations out

The United Kingdom is not a centralised state. It is a ‘family of nations’. There is a strong case for arguing that the referendum carries only if a majority of voters in all four nations respectively give their backing. England and Wales voted to leave, but Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain. Recognising that split is not a matter of shifting the goalposts after the fact. It is about respecting an established, indeed a compelling constitutional order. Continue reading >>
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26 Juni 2016

Zwei Jahre sind nicht immer gleich zwei Jahre: wann beginnt der Brexit-Countdown?

Zwei Jahre gibt der EU-Vertrag einem austrittswilligen Land Zeit, mit der EU einen Austrittsvertrag auszuhandeln. Doch wann beginnt diese Frist? Und was, wenn das Land diesen Zeitpunkt mutwillig hinauszögert? Die Antwort lässt sich nicht allein formaljuristisch geben. Gefragt ist auch politische Klugheit. Continue reading >>

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? Continue reading >>
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Five Questions on Brexit to LAURENT PECH

Middlesex Law Professor Laurent Pech on the limits if not perils of direct democracy when citizens to are asked to decide complex policy choices in the absence of a clear understanding of the available options and potential consequences of their vote. Continue reading >>
25 Juni 2016
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Five Questions on Brexit to NTINA TZOUVALA

Young international law scholar Ntina Tzouvala on the difference between the "will of the people" and a manouevre of the political elite, and on the danger for Europe to carry around a constitutional corpse. Continue reading >>
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Five Questions on Brexit to KENNETH ARMSTRONG

... and five very succinct answers by Cambridge EU law professor Kenneth Armstrong, Continue reading >>
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24 Juni 2016
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Five Questions on Brexit to JO SHAW

Edinburgh EU citizenship law expert Jo Shaw's answers to my set of questions on the occasion of the Brexit referendum. Continue reading >>
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Five Questions on Brexit to GERTRUDE LÜBBE-WOLFF

Former Constitutional Court Judge Gertrude Lübbe-Wolff on why she deeply regrets to see the British go, on the reversibility of the Brexit decision, and on an independent Scotland's prospects to continued EU membership. Continue reading >>
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Nach dem Brexit-Referendum: ein Fast Track zur deutschen Staatsbürgerschaft für bedrohte Unionsbürger!

Viele Britinnen und Briten verzweifeln regelrecht angesichts der Aussicht, ihren "grundlegenden Status" (EuGH) als Unionsbürger ohne ihr Zutun und Verschulden einbüßen zu müssen. Da die Unionsbürgerschaft an die Staatsangehörigkeit in einem EU-Mitgliedsstaat geknüpft ist, wäre es ein starkes Zeichen für die europäische Integration, für Mit-Unionsbürger, die vom Verlust dieses Status akut bedroht sind, einen eigens auf sie zugeschnittenen Tatbestand in § 10 StAG zu schaffen. Continue reading >>

Brexit and the Argentinisation of British citizenship: Taking care not to overstay your 90 days in Rome, Amsterdam or Paris

What are the likely consequences of Brexit for the status and rights of British citizenship? Is it possible to mitigate the overwhelming negative consequences of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on the plane of the rights enjoyed by the citizens of the UK? The Brexit referendum result will most likely mark one of the most radical losses in the value of a particular nationality in recent history. Continue reading >>
22 Juni 2016

Transformation of EU Constitutionalism

The EU constitutionalism has been transformed. For the worse. The causes for that are well known. They are the sum of consecutive, unresolved financial, economic, political, humanitarian and security crises. This post is not interested into causal relationship between the crises. It centers instead on their aggregate negative outcome and the possible way ahead. It asks what exactly the EU constitutionalism, as a dominant narrative of European integration, has (d)evolved into and what can be done to fix its fissures? Continue reading >>
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21 Juni 2016

The referendum of the UK’s EU membership: No legal salve for its disenfranchised non-resident citizens

On Thursday 23rd June 2016, pursuant to the European Union Referendum Act 2015, a UK-wide referendum will be held on the question: ‘should the UK remain a member of the EU or leave the EU’. Hitherto, much of the referendum debate has concerned immigration (to the UK) by EU citizens, exercising their mobility rights, with rather unsavoury rhetoric concerning deportation of criminals and ‘warnings’ about future arrivals from candidate accession states. Alongside immigration, leading campaigners have argued that the referendum is, at heart, a about questions of sovereignty and democracy. Continue reading >>
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Brexit, Identity, and the Rise of the Euro-Celts

EU law not only protect fundamental rights and freedoms, but also the national identities of the Member States. Perhaps for “Little England”, that is not enough. But after Brexit, who would protect the national identities of the other nations of the UK? Continue reading >>
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20 Juni 2016

Brexit and Citizenship

What are the likely consequences of Brexit for the status and rights of British citizenship? Can the fact that every British national is an EU citizen mitigate the possible negative consequences of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on the plane of the rights enjoyed by the citizens of the UK? These questions are not purely hypothetical, as the referendum on June 23 can potentially mark one of the most radical losses in the value of a particular nationality in recent history. Continue reading >>
16 Juni 2016

Britain’s Neverendum on Europe

The UK Prime Minister has told us that the June 23rd vote will settle ‘once and for all’ Britain’s vexed relationship with Europe. I wouldn’t count on it. The current marathon is only beginning. The upcoming referendum has all the hallmarks of a ‘neverendum’: a campaign that tries to resolve an issue yet only succeeds in polarizing opinion yet further, guaranteeing its presence on the political agenda for years, if not decades, to come. Continue reading >>
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The Brexit Vote: The Wrong Question for Britain and Europe

Referendums are supposed to provide decisive interventions in the affairs of state. Yet the referendum theory is in fact deeply flawed. European ‘membership’ for a country of Britain’s size, influence and location should be less a matter of ‘yes or no’ than one of ‘more or less’. The reduction of a complex and graduated choice to a basic dichotomy simply does not reflect the position or serve the interests of the vast majority who will be affected by the outcome. What is more, and worse, the crude logic of either-or plebiscitary politics threatens to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Continue reading >>
15 Juni 2016
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„Wir sollten sagen: Wer nicht will, der hat schon“

Christoph Möllers im Verfassungsblog-Interview über das bevorstehende Brexit-Referendum, und warum die EU die Briten selbstbewusst ziehen lassen sollte, wenn diese das wollen. Continue reading >>
13 Juni 2016

A Tale of Two Exits: Scotland and Brexit

The EU referendum has become is a form of displacement activity, a chance for the English voters to affirm their Englishness. If England votes for Brexit and Scotland to stay in the EU, the question will be whether the other EU Member States would accept Scotland – perhaps in a confederation with Northern Ireland – as a new or continuing EU Member State or even as the continuing UK. Continue reading >>
08 März 2016

Sovereignty Safeguards in the UK-EU Settlement

The U.K.-EU settlement, despite being legally binding and only amendable with the U.K.’s consent, does little to reaffirm British sovereignty. It is primarily a set of restatements and interpretations of existing EU law with new proposals primarily in the area of social policy. Continue reading >>
12 Februar 2016

On the new Legal Settlement of the UK with the EU

In this brief comment I discuss some of the legal questions that arise out of the proposals for a new settlement between the UK and the EU.[1] As I will show, the precise nature of the draft agreement is unclear. This legal instrument raises difficult issues of both EU and public international law and could potentially cause serious uncertainty or even a constitutional crisis. Press reports have missed this legal complexity. Ministerial statements have been silent about it. Continue reading >>