Brexit, The Supreme Court (UK) and the principle of loyalty: on the question of irrevocability of a withdrawal notice

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by Alessandra Silveira, Editor

Article 50, TEU is silent on several issues concerning the withdrawal of a Member State from the European Union. Such article establishes that the Member State shall notify the European Council of its withdrawal intention in accordance with its own constitutional requirements. But it does not provide for, for instance, about the hypothesis of revoking the notification of the withdrawal intention, perhaps – before the certainty of revocability – to prevent the Member States of being tempted to influence the destiny of the EU through a false threat of exit. Therefore the doubts raised by article 50, TEU will have to be solved in the light of the principles of the EU law, in special the principle of loyalty [Article 4(3), TEU]. According to this principle of friendly conduct, inherent to all known federative systems, the EU and the Member States respect and assist each other mutually in the fulfilment of the missions resulting from the Treaties.

In 24 January 2017, The Supreme Court issued its expected ruling on whether a notice withdrawing the UK from the EU Treaties can, under the UK’s constitutional arrangements, lawfully be given by Government ministers without prior authorisation by an Act of Parliament.[i] Probably to justify the absence of a reference for a preliminary ruling on the question of irrevocability of a withdrawal notice pursuant to Article 50 TEU, The Supreme Court  highlights that UK’s constitutional requirements are a matter of domestic law should be determined by UK judges. Moreover, The Supreme Court asserted that the issues in those appeals have nothing to do with political issues such as the merits of the decision to withdraw, the timetable and terms of so doing, or the details of any future relationship between the UK and the EU.

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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

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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.

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Brexit and the European Football Market: The Consequences for the Premier League and the British Players

by Rita de Sousa Costa, law student at UMinho
and Tiago Sérgio Cabral, law student at UMinho

The results of the referendum held in Great Britain on the 23rd of June of 2016 shall certainly change the course of history. On this day “Brexit” trumped “Bremain” by 52% against 48% with a turnout of about 72%. And while the results of the referendum are not binding it does seem that the British government plans to respect the will of the voters.

Leaving the EU will affect not only the economy but every single aspect of the lives of the British people, including sports. The British love sports, mainly football, and Britain, more precisely England has one of most competitive football leagues in the world: the Premier League. Nigel Farage a top UK politician and one of the most prominent leave supporters said in April:

What this referendum is about is taking back control of our lives, our laws and our borders”.

However, we must ask ourselves what are the consequences of “taking back our laws and borders” for the Premier League?

Farage is a supporter of Crystal Palace, whose team is composed of 32 players, and 12 of those players are not British. Manchester United, the winner of the FA Cup, regularly plays with 7 non-British players on its line-up even if in total it has more than 50% British players on its roster. How will the Premier League survive after Brexit? Will its teams agree with Farage’s statement “outside of this single market we will be better off” (here)?
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“Out is out” (including in relation to the Mediterranean diet…). On the Article 50 of the European Union Treaty in the light of the federative principle of European loyalty

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by Professor Alessandra Silveira, Editor

Since Abraham Lincoln faced the hardest constitutional crisis of the USA (War of Secession, 1861-1865) the modern legal theory of federative systems had taken for granted that the hypothesis of secession was repelled. And then the Canadian Supreme Court reframed the data. In the country, in 1995, a referendum was called on the unilateral declaration of secession of Québec. The proposal of separation was reject by a short difference – 50,58% of the votes in a turnout of 94%. Following the referendum the federal government appealed to the Supreme Court to know if a unilateral secession, addressed in a popular consultation not approved by the remaining States, would violate the Constitution. The Supreme Court ruled that a unilateral secession with those features would infringe the Constitution. However, if in a different referendum, when answering a “clear question”, the “clear majority” of the Québécoise casted an unequivocal will of not integrating Canada anymore, then the remaining States and the federal government would be bonded to negotiate with Québec the conditions for its withdrawal because unwritten constitutional principles determined it (Reference re Secession of Quebec, [1998] 2 S.C.R. 217). In the aftermath the federal government passed in the Canadian Parliament “clear” rules tending to regulate and calculate the “price” of withdrawal, especially to safeguard the legitimate interest of the remaining States and their population – as a result, Québec still integrates the federation. Punch line: in a federative system there are neither free lunches nor free exits.

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