R (Miller) v The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2016] EWHC 2768 (Admin) : Realpolitik and the Revocation of an Article 50 TEU Notification to Withdraw

2967309821_46aa519072_o

by John Cotter, Senior Lecturer at University of Wolverhampton Law School

The opening lines of a judgment – in common law jurisdictions, at least – can very often be revealing of a court’s concerns. The first five paragraphs of the collegiate High Court judgment (Lord Thomas CJ, Sir Terence Etherton MR and Sales LJ) in Miller indicate very clearly the judges’ worry that their judgment would be misunderstood by sections of the media and the wider public. This judgment did not have “any bearing on the question of the merits or demerits of a withdrawal of the [UK] from the [EU]”, the Court stated. Rather, the question before the Court was a narrow constitutional issue, and a purely legal matter: whether the government could use Royal prerogative powers to give notification of withdrawal from the EU pursuant to Article 50 TEU or whether this was a matter for the Houses of Parliament. On this question, the High Court ruled that the notification under Article 50 TEU may not be given by means of Royal prerogative; rather, such notification is a matter for Parliament exclusively. While the conducting of international relations and the signing of and withdrawal from international treaties were powers generally to be exercised by the executive on behalf of the Crown, the High Court reasoned that where withdrawal from a treaty would result in changes to domestic law (as withdrawal from the EU would), such withdrawal could not be effected without Parliament.

The Court’s attempt to avoid misinterpretation of its role appears, however, to have fallen on deaf or wilfully closed ears, with the judges being subjected to attacks in sections of the media that were astonishing even by the standards of Britain’s rather histrionic tabloid press (one publication’s front page contained the headline “Enemies of the People” along with photographs of the three judges). To many of those advocating Brexit, the judgment was an unelected court playing politics and frustrating the will of the people (even though the European Union Referendum Act 2015 had not provided that the referendum result be binding). To the Court’s defenders, the judgment was the latest in a line of rulings in which the courts upheld the supremacy of Parliament over Royal prerogative powers. It is certainly the case that the High Court judgment, if upheld by the Supreme Court (which is due to hear an appeal in early December), has the potential to make the giving of the Article 50 notification a more lengthy and complex process. It is conceivable that both Houses of Parliament could use their leverage to require the government to reveal more detail on their post-notification negotiating aims. However, as a matter of realpolitik, the judgment is unlikely prevent Article 50 being triggered: Labour, the largest opposition party in the Commons has indicated that it will not vote against a Bill to give notification under Article 50, and it is unlikely that the Lords would provoke further questions about their relevance in modern Britain by blocking Brexit.

Continue reading “R (Miller) v The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2016] EWHC 2768 (Admin) : Realpolitik and the Revocation of an Article 50 TEU Notification to Withdraw”

The need of tax harmonization within the wealth taxation in the European Union

euro-76019_1920

by Hugo Flores da Silva, Assistant Professor at Law School of UMinho


1. Introduction and wealth taxation characterization

Though widely used in the European Union, the wealth taxes account for a relatively small part of the EU Member States’ tax revenue, when compared with the main sources of revenue[i]. At the same time, the political debate and the scientific research developed in the field of wealth taxation is very incipient, when compared to another taxation bases[ii]. Not even the fact that this kind of taxation constitutes one of the oldest ways employed by the states to obtain revenue was able to counter the identified trend[iii].

However, in the current time of fiscal consolidation and macroeconomic adjustment, taxation of wealth is gaining momentum. The lack of alternatives capable of generating an increase in tax revenue within the income and consumption taxation[iv], the growing interest in the fairness and redistributions aspects of the tax system[v] and the need to adjust the tax system to make it more growth friendly[vi], can be pointed out as the main reasons for the recent academic and political debate on wealth taxation.

When we talk about wealth taxation we’re referring to a very complex reality, capable of reunite a very large group of different taxes[vii]. Although there are many types of wealth taxes, and with very different characterization between them, we consider that they can be grouped into two major categories[viii]: taxes on wealth transfers; and taxes on wealth itself. Inside these two main categories it is possible to identify a wide variety of distinct taxes.

The taxes on wealth transfers usually assume the following characterization[ix]: (i) taxes on onerous transfers – as the onerous movable transfers are subject to VAT, in this subcategory we include the taxes levied on onerous immovable transfers[x]; (ii) and taxes on gratuitous transfers – in this subcategory we include the inheritance and gift taxation[xi]. The taxes on wealth itself can be classified as follows[xii]: (i) taxes levied on the holding or ownership of specific assets – usually immovable property[xiii]; and (ii) taxes levied on the taxpayer’s aggregate net-wealth[xiv].
Continue reading “The need of tax harmonization within the wealth taxation in the European Union”

Is Europe alone?

by João Alexandre Guimarães, Erasmus student at UMinho

After the US Election and confirmation of Donald Trump as president, the current President Barack Obama visited Europe and raised an issue … Is Europe alone?

In an interview, the EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, said,

“Trump has, among other things, praised Vladimir Putin, questioned the principle of NATO, and suggested creating a database of Muslims in America.[…] We will need to teach the president-elect what Europe is and how it works,’ he continued, adding that Americans usually had no interest in Europe. […] I think we will waste two years before Mr Trump tours the world he does not know”, via Metro.

In Berlin and after a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel, current President Barack Obama recalled the priorities of his eight-year term, saying he hoped that his successor, Donald Trump, would not call into question projects such as the transatlantic free trade agreement or commitments to NATO and the Paris climate deal.

‘‘The committement of the United States to Europe is enduring and it is rooted in the values that we share. The values that Angela just mentioned. Our commitment to democracy, our commitment to the rule of law, our commitment to the dignity of all people. In our own countries and around the world our alliance with our NATO partners has been a cornerstone of US foreign policy for nearly 70 years, in good times and bad, and through presidents of both parties, because the United States has a fundamental interest in Europe’s stability and security,” he said, via Euronews.

Mark Leonard told the Social Europe that “this will be a tough agenda to adopt – not least because Europe is facing its own brand of populist nationalism. France’s far-right National Front leader, Marine Le Pen, was among the first to congratulate Trump on his victory, and Trump has said that he would put the UK at the front of the queue after Brexit. But even Europe’s most Trump-like leaders will find it harder to defend their national interest if they try to go it alone. To survive in Trump’s world, they should try to make Europe great again.”

EU Citizenship and Protection of Social Rights in the Court of Justice case-law

16400696138_b1067bf5a5_o

by Cinzia Peraro, PhD student in European Union Law at the University of Verona

1. Introduction

This post aims at analysing the fundamental freedom of movement of workers and the protection of social rights in light of the recent EU Court of Justice case-law. The arising question is whether fundamental social rights may assume the same hierarchical level as general principles when a balancing test is exercised within the assessment of compatibility of national measures with EU law.

The definition of EU citizenship and the codification of rights granted to EU citizens are covered by the Treaties, namely by Article 9 TEU, Article 18 ff. TFEU and Chapter V of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. EU citizens can freely move across the Union in order to work or look for a job or establish their place of work in one Member State different from the one of origin, where they can enjoy the rights granted by the EU. Indeed, EU citizenship creates rights upon EU citizens and therefore could be defined as a “comunidade de direitos”[i].

Nowadays, the free movement of citizens became a core issue within the debates on present threats and challenges that the EU is facing, amongst which the EU immigration policy that is not only linked to the free movement of persons, but also to the underlying process of integration. In general, a more positive approach should be welcomed when addressing current issues.

2. Free movement of workers

Originally, the four fundamental freedoms were established with the aim of increasing and developing the European internal market and workers were granted rights abroad. The Union offered workers the possibility to move across Member States in order to provide their services or capabilities or establish their place of work. Then, the personal dimension was considered and individual rights were recognised, such as the right to family reunification. Thus, the free movement of workers should not be seen in macroeconomic terms, that is to say linked to the development of the internal market, but rather as a personal freedom to choose the country in which citizens want to work.[ii]

Continue reading “EU Citizenship and Protection of Social Rights in the Court of Justice case-law”

Trump won, and what now for Europe?

by João Alexandre Guimarães, Erasmus student at UMinho

Today, 09/11/2016, we discovered that Republican Donald Trump won the American Election for President. But what does this influence in the European Union?

Deutsche Welle, on its website, has stated that Europeans have had rather disappointing experiences with American presidents. That’s just as true for the relationship with Republican George W. Bush as it is for the one with Democrat Barack Obama.

Erica Chenoweth, an expert on international security policy at the University of Denver, said to DW, “Europe should occupy the top spot on the list of priorities for the next president, because it’s about the most important strategic alliance the United States has”.

Mark Stone, from Sky News, talked to Jeremy Shapiro, the research director at the European Council on Foreign Relations, who stated:

“European governments have a strange degree of confidence that although they certainly don’t want a Trump presidency, they can manage it, because he has said a lot of crazy things on the campaign trail but he probably hasn’t meant most of them and probably won’t be able to implement the rest because of the checks and balances and advisers”, via SkyNews.

Continue reading “Trump won, and what now for Europe?”

Brexit is going to happen, but…

by João Alexandre Guimarães, Erasmus student at UMinho

The New York Times says the British government’s plan for leaving the European Union was thrown into uncertainty on Thursday after the High Court ruled that Parliament must give its approval before the process can begin. “The court’s decision seemed likely to slow — but not halt — the British withdrawal from the bloc, a step approved by nearly 52 percent of voters in a June referendum. Nevertheless, the court’s decision was a significant blow to Prime Minister Theresa May“.

She had planned to begin the legal steps for leaving the European Union by the end of March, and to prepare for the negotiations over Britain’s exit mostly behind closed doors. If the court’s ruling is upheld — the government immediately vowed to appeal — that plan would be thrown into disarray, analysts said.

On CNN (also here), Jane Marrick says, this does not have to expose Britain’s detailed negotiating position with Brussels, but it should allow our democratically elected representatives to scrutinize the broad terms. It will also give the 48% who voted Remain — 16 million people — a voice that under the government’s plans they are currently denied.

Eleanor Garnier, from BBC, said this decision has huge implications, not just on the timing of Brexit but on the terms of Brexit. That’s because it’s given the initiative to those on the Remain side in the House of Commons who, it’s now likely, will argue Article 50 can only be triggered when Parliament is ready and that could mean when they’re happy with the terms of any future deal. Of course, it will be immensely difficult to satisfy and get agreement from all those MPs who voted to remain. Could an early general election be on the cards after all? , via BBC.

Editorial of November 2016

7428617406_aba08cab5d_o

by Alessandra Silveira, Editor
and Sophie Perez Fernandes, Junior Editor

Unveiling the meaning of freedom of religion in the workplace

Two preliminary proceedings are currently pending before the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) concerning the question of religious expression at work. In both cases, Achbita (C-157/15), originated in Belgium, and Bougnaoui (C-188/15), originated in France, the ECJ is called upon to rule on a highly sensitive issue – the wearing of Islamic headscarves (and not the full veil) in the workplace. The questions are fundamentally the following: is a private employer allowed to prohibit a female employee of Muslim faith from wearing a headscarf in the workplace?; is the dismissal of an employee who refuses to comply with such rules restricting the wearing of religious symbols at work unlawful?

It is the first time that the ECJ is called upon to address such questions. In the meantime, both AG Kokott (in Achbita) and AG Sharpston (in Bougnaoui) have rendered their opinions. The issues raised in both cases require the interpretation of the concept of ‘discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief’ within the meaning of the Anti-Discrimination Directive – the Directive 2000/78[i]. Both Advocates General concluded that a ban, such as those at issue in the main proceedings, could be regarded as indirect discrimination: the rules in question, although apparently neutral, were likely to put individuals of certain religions or beliefs at a particular disadvantage by comparison with other employees. Such discrimination may nevertheless be permitted if i) objectively justified by a legitimate aim, such as the interest of the employer’s business to enforce a policy of religious and ideological neutrality, and ii) so far as the principle of proportionality is observed (Article 2/2/b of Directive 2000/78).

However, the Advocates General disagree as to whether such a ban could be found as constituting direct discrimination (Article 2/2/a of Directive 2000/78). According to AG Kokott, a ban such as that at issue in Achbita could not be regarded as direct discrimination based on religion: a company rule prohibiting the wearing of visible signs of religious, political or philosophical beliefs, only creates a difference of treatment between employees who wish to give active expression to a particular belief and their colleagues who do not feel the same need. Thus, Ms Achbita had not been treated less favourably than another person on account of religion directly and specifically. On the contrary, AG Sharpston firstly concluded that Ms Bougnaoui’s dismissal amounted to direct discrimination against her on the basis of her religion as the right to manifest one’s religion is to be understood as an intrinsic part of the right to freedom of religion enshrined in both Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) and Article 10 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (CFREU). The distinction between direct and indirect discrimination is relevant as their possible justifications are different. In her analysis, AG Sharpston concluded that neither Article 4(1) of Directive 2000/78, nor any of the other derogations from the prohibition of direct discrimination on grounds of religion which that directive lays down, applied.

Continue reading “Editorial of November 2016”

On the CJEU’s post-Brexit case-law on European citizenship. The recovery of the identity Ariadne’s thread?

23896739209_9e171a11d9_o

by Professor Alessandra Silveira, Editor

The CJEU over the years has helped forging a concept of citizenship directed to be the “fundamental status of Member States nationals”. However, since the ruling Dereci of 2011, the proactivity of the CJEU concerning the development of the European citizenship seemed to have gradually exhausted its potentialities, mostly on the so-called social citizenship. It happens, tough, that the crucial moment the European Union faces demands the enhancement of its vertical relation with the citizens it upholds – it is either this or fragmentation. And maybe this is the subliminal message from the CJEU in three post-Brexit rulings that, decided in the Grand Chamber, surprisingly recover and develop the most emblematic case-law about the European citizenship – namely the Rottmann[i] and Zambrano[ii] rulings – whose political potential and/or identity potential seemed irrevocably muzzled.

In the ruling Rendón Marín[iii] and CS[iv], the core issue involved the expulsion and the automatic refusal of the concession of residence to third states nationals who have a dependent minor European citizen – in  both cases due to the parent’s criminal records. The CJEU recovered the Zambrano assertion, according to which Article 20, TFEU precludes national provisions that have the effect of depriving citizens of the Union of the genuine enjoyment of the substance of the rights conferred by virtue of their status as citizens of the Union[v] and, in this sense, it must be attributed the derived right of residence to the national from a third State, under this risk of the useful effect of the European citizenship being affected, if the minor is forced to leave the territory of the Union to follow his/her parent[vi]. In both rulings, the novelty is the way the CJEU appreciates, in the light of the fundamental rights of the European citizen, the possibility of a Member State to introduce limits to such derived right of residence which arises from Article 20, TFEU.

Continue reading “On the CJEU’s post-Brexit case-law on European citizenship. The recovery of the identity Ariadne’s thread?”

On the CJEU’s case-law concerning the “social tourism” that preceded the Brexit referendum – between forces of cohesion and fragmentation

human-592734_1920

by Professor Alessandra Silveira, Editor

One week prior to the scheduled date of the referendum about the UK leaving the EU a ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union was published. The decision was to dismiss an action for failure to fulfil an obligation (article 258, TFEU) which had been filed by the European Commission against the UK seeking the conviction of such Member State for violating the prohibition of non-discrimination on ground of nationality[i]. Throughout the year of 2008, the European Commission received several complaints by citizens from other Member States living in the UK with objections about the refusal of British authorities to provide them social benefits due to the absence of proof of the right to reside. Following that, the EC accused the UK of not fulfilling the Regulation 883/2004 (on the coordination of social security systems) because it subjected the applicants of certain social benefits – namely the dependent child allowance or the child tax credit – to the so-called test of right to reside. The Commission considered that requirement incompatible with the meaning of the mentioned Regulation – once it makes reference to a habitual residence and not a legal residence – and, simultaneously, discriminatory towards the nationals from other Member States as such requirement is automatically fulfilled by the British nationals living in the UK.

The core of the case was to evaluate if a Member State’s permission to attribute certain social benefits only to the people who legally reside in its territory is in itself discriminatory under the terms of article 4 of the Regulation 883/2004. Under the title “equality of treatment”, the article states that, unless otherwise provided for by the own Regulation, persons to whom it applies shall enjoy the same benefits and be subject to the same obligations under the legislation of any Member State as the nationals thereof. All in all, in every situation comprised by the ratione materiae domain of application of the EU Law, any European citizen may invoke the prohibition of discrimination on ground of nationality which shows in article 18, TFEU and it is materialised in article 4 of the Regulation 883/2004. Those situations include the ones deriving from the exercise of the freedom to move and to reside in the territory of the Member States, which are laid in articles 20 (2), 1º§, a) and 21, TFEU.

Continue reading “On the CJEU’s case-law concerning the “social tourism” that preceded the Brexit referendum – between forces of cohesion and fragmentation”

Editorial of October 2016

8630266615_336d5056ec_o

by Sophie Perez Fernandes, Junior Editor

Engaging EU liability within the European Stability Mechanism framework

Last September 20th, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) delivered two judgments regarding the role of the European Commission and, to a lesser extent, the European Central Bank, in the negotiation and signing of the Memorandum of Understanding concluded between the Republic of Cyprus and the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) during the 2012-2013 financial crisis, and, in particular, in the restructuring of the banking sector in Cyprus imposed as a condition for the grant of financial assistance.

In Mallis and Malli (Joined Cases C-105/15 P to C-109/15 P), actions were brought against the European Commission and the European Central Bank for the annulment of the Eurogroup’s statement of 25 March 2013 concerning, inter alia, the restructuring of the banking sector in Cyprus. In turn, in Ledra Advertising (Joined Cases C-8/15 P to C-10/15 P), depositors of two large Cypriot banks brought actions against the European Commission and the European Central Bank for the partial annulment of the Memorandum of Understanding of 26 April 2013 adopted jointly by the ESM and the Republic of Cyprus and also for compensation for damages allegedly suffered following the request for financial assistance and the ensuing restructuring of the two banks in question.

The ECJ had already been called upon to rule on judicial protection questions raised by the ESM framework. Created in order to provide, where needed, financial assistance to the Member States whose currency is the euro, the ESM was instituted through an international agreement between euro area Member States – the Treaty establishing the ESM, concluded in Brussels the 2th February 2012, in force since the 27th September 2012. Thus, the ESM Treaty is not part of the EU legal order, as confirmed by the ECJ in the famous Pringle judgment (C-370/12). As a consequence, when creating the ESM, or acting within its framework, Member States do not act within the scope of application of EU law for the purposes, in particular, of Article 51(1) CFREU. Individuals seeking to challenge Member States’ measures adopted pursuant the conditions laid down in a Memorandum of Understanding would not, therefore, find in the preliminary ruling mechanism an indirect means of access to the ECJ in order to assess their compliance with EU law and, in particular, the CFREU as the former was not in question and the latter was hence out of reach.

What the above mentioned judgments, and especially Ledra Advertising, emphasize is the link nonetheless existing between the ESM framework and the EU legal order. Quoting Alicia Hinarejos (EU Law Analysis), in order to carry out its functions, the ESM “borrows” two EU institutions, the European Commission and the European Central Bank, two thirds of the infamously known Troika. The question is whether (and, if so, when) EU institutions’ actions within the ESM framework might be reviewed and, when harmful, give rise to compensation under EU law and, in particular, in light of the CFREU.

Continue reading “Editorial of October 2016”