EU Referendum Resources

A number of reports, resources and analysis about the EU referendum in the UK.

Electoral Commission Guidance: EU referendum  Rules campaigners & third parties must follow on campaign spending, donations and reporting in the run up to the referendum.
The UK’s EU referendum 2016 explained  Commons’ & Lords’ library information and briefings, analysis and comment on the EU referendum.
Hoc Briefing: Process of leaving the EU  Examines issues around TEU, art 50.
Government case for remaining in the EU  Sent to every UK household, aims to “help the public make an informed decision in the 23 Jun 2016 EU referendum”.  Government website on the EU referendum, making the case for remaining in the EU.
TUC legal opinion on Brexit & impact on workers  Michael Ford QC’s legal opinion.
EU Referendum and EU Reform  Lords’ EU Select Committee Repor,arguing that the Government should focus on positive vision for future EU reform.t.
EU Referendum: Counting Officers’ Regulations  These regulations are the final piece of legislation which confirm the arrangements for the EU referendum.
Lawyers – In for Britain: Report  The UK and the EU: Benefits, Misconceptions & Alternatives
Scot Parliament: EU ref -implications for Scotland  European and External Relations Committee report on implications for Scotland of EU referendum and EU reform.
UCL European Unit: Brexit Divisions – event series  Examination of how campaigns can influence how people think and vote in referendums.
UCL Constitution Unit: The UK and Europe Seminars  A series of events on the constitutional implications of Brexit.
PwC: Leaving the EU: Implications for the economy  CBI commissioned PwC to provide quantitative assessment of the potential economic implications of leaving EU.
HoC Briefing: The EU referendum campaign  Rules that apply to campaign activity.
Hoc Briefing: EU referendum 2016 explained  Briefing papers which set out the background and stages of the UK’s referendum for remaining in or leaving the European Union.

EU referendums and renegotiations

Maria Kendrick

The last referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union was forty years ago, neither within the memory nor the lifetime of a significant number of those eligible to vote this time around – which notably will not include the youngest, 16 and 17 year olds. Since then, dissatisfaction with the European Union has been evident amongst its citizens. The Economist recently dated this attitudinal change back to at least 1992, when the French narrowly approved the Treaty of Maastricht in a referendum.  One of the many explanations proffered for this change is the impact of political populists, such as UKIP, in influencing voters. In the same article in The Economist Catherine Fieschi, Director of Counterpoint, is identified as suggesting that a consequence of the rise of populists is the increase in “Coliseum Politics” such as the grand gesture referendum. Although UKIP has not achieved any great success in Parliamentary elections, it appears to have achieved the credit (or blame depending on your point of view) for causing concern amongst the Conservative Party of possible inroads into Tory constituencies and for making the question of Europe loom large, again, in the Conservative Party itself. Hence David Cameron’s Bloomberg speech and subsequent election manifesto promises of a referendum and legislation to guarantee it is conducted.

The populist party or Eurosceptic argument, which is now well versed, centres around a dislike – so it would say – of being dictated to by Brussels and paying a hefty budget contribution which the British taxpayer can ill afford, only to be subject to European laws it does not want. Despite the reticent tone of history, for example from Professor John Mackitosh MP who appeared in the BBC’s referendum results coverage in 1975, to opine that referenda are contrary to the parliamentary system and are therefore unfortunate. Even in the recent House of Commons debates on 7 September 2015 on the European Union Referendum Bill itself, a well known constitutional law historian and academic was quoted as saying that referendums are used where it is thought that the Parliamentary system cannot provide the required level of legitimacy. Paradoxically, both politicians and lawyers alike are citing the preservation of Parliamentary sovereignty as the reason for supporting Brexit whilst at the same time backing the use of a referendum because of a lack of legitimacy in the parliamentary system.

Whatever the political motivation, the election of a majority Conservative government has precipitated developments in the legal situation. The European Union Referendum Bill was swiftly published following the Queen’s Speech. It initially worded the question as Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union? This was considered to be too one sided for the Electoral Commission, which has proposed that the question be changed toShould the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union? to which its suggested options for responses are “Remain a member of the European Union” or “Leave the European Union”listed in that order. This wording was subsequently accepted by the Prime Minister. The ‘yes’ and ‘no’ camps have become the ‘remain’ and ‘leave’ camps.

In addition to the focus on the wording and layout of the referendum question some of the legal technicalities of the provisions of the European Union Referendum Bill have developed a particular significance of their own. It is not difficult to see why. In 1975 the referendum result was an overwhelming ‘Yes’ to the union, with a majority vote of 70% in favour of continued membership being returned in most regions throughout the UK. The ‘leave’ camp appear convinced that this was due to the large disparity in the capabilities,- or rather, resources – between themselves and the opposing campaign. Both the establishment and big business, which then acted in cohort in support of Britain’s membership, are reported to have outspent the ‘no’ campaign by twelve to one.  A concern to avoid history repeating itself has prompted the fervour of debate on purdah, which has been seen recently in the House of Commons. The ‘leave’ camp expressed concern that if the legislation allowed them to be outspent again, they would surely lose and this would undermine the public’s faith in the outcome. The role of BBC journalists in asking businessmen and women questions (even if inadvertently) in interviews on subjects unrelated to Europe as to the future of their business should there be a vote to leave the EU was discussed by John Redwood in an impassioned speech. Essentially, any possibility of an implied use of government resources in the purdah period (up to 28 days before polling day), however tenuous, has been criticised for compromising the legitimacy of the result. Those in the ‘leave’ camp – comprising MPs from all political parties – were keen, if not to have the law drafted in their favour, to avoid having it drafted in their disfavour – all in the name of democracy of course. When it came to it, the government was significantly outvoted on this issue. Continue reading

Debating Europe’s justice deficit

GDB imageGráinne de Búrca

On Thursday June 4th, at LSE, a debate was held between Justice Giuliano Amato of the Constitutional Court of Italy (former Italian Prime Minister) and Professor Christian Joerges of the Hertie School of Government to launch the publication by Hart Publishing of a new collection of essays on Europe’s Justice Deficit?‘, edited by Dimitry Kochenov, Gráinne de Búrca and Andrew Williams.

Christian Joerges launched the debate by reflecting on the EU’s origins, and on the strong influence of German ordo-liberal economic theory in the creation and design of the European Economic Community.  He explained an ordo-liberal legal framework as one which “privileges and constitutionalises a private-law society”; and which treats as ‘just’ whatever a system of undistorted competition delivers.  He asked the audience whether the EU’s institutional design and its ordoliberalism-inspired “integration through law” agenda has been an obstacle to the pursuit of justice instead of a means of fostering it. Citing the various challenges which have been made to this ordo-liberal vision by writers such as Fritz Scharpf, Jürgen Habermas and Wolfgang Streeck, he emphasised the democratic and social embeddedness of markets and their dependence on other institutions for their capacity to deliver justice, and doubted whether the EU in its current form has that capacity.   Moving on to the writings of John Rawls and Thomas Nagel on the scope of justice, and on the difficult question of whether ‘justice between states’, and particularly any form of redistributive justice,  is really possible, he posed the question: “what are the Greeks entitled to expect from the Germans?” The EU is better understood, he suggested, in terms of ‘inter-democracy’ (to use a term derived from Daniel Innerarity’s work) rather than being thought of as itself a democratic system.

On the current crisis, with its politics of austerity and governance-by-troika, Joerges argued that the kind of interventionist European economic and financial management we have seen in recent years is actually far removed from the ordo-liberal vision, in its reliance on discretionary power rather than justiciable rules.   Finishing on an understandably gloomy note, he suggested that while the EU’s crisis management may well destroy southern European economic cultures, the social and institutional resistance of these cultures means that it will nevertheless be unable to replace them with some other top-down model of economic governance.

Giuliano Amato, in response, struck a more positive tone.  While his analysis of Europe’s ills shared much in common with that of Christian Joerges, particularly as far as the current state of EU affairs is concerned and the inadequacy of its political institutions and fiscal capacity to support the economy, he presented both a more positive vision of the EU’s original model as well as a more forward-looking set of suggestions for how to move the EU beyond its current state of crisis, discontent and injustice.   He began with the question whether it was indeed appropriate to apply the standards of justice which are generally applied to a nation state to an entity like the EU, or whether a functionally limited economic system could only be appraised by some other standards.  In other words: what kind of entity is the EU, for the purpose of considering questions of justice?   Continue reading

Call for Applications – Future Directions in EU Labour Law

It may be of interest to readers that Early Career Scholars in EU labour law and social policy are invited to apply for a space on the British Academy-funded project on Future Directions in EU Labour Law, with a launch workshop organised on July 3 at Magdalen College, Oxford. The project will bring together early career academics and senior policy makers from across the Union to collaborate throughout 2015 to shape new ideas and policy proposals.

For further information, and details of how to apply, please visit the project website.


Events: Human Rights Week 2014 at Matrix Chambers

Matrix is putting on two events in Human Rights Week (w/c 8th December) designed to celebrate Human Rights Day, held annually on the 10th December 2014 by the UN.

Tuesday 9 December, 6.30pm

‘Are international institutions and international law practices encouraging or stifling the private sector’s approach to diversity and female inclusivity?’

As part of a week-long, profession-wide series of events put together by The Law Society to celebrate Human Rights Day, Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) and Matrix Chambers invite you to a panel discussion by leading academics and legal and business professionals on gender and female inclusivity. Given the gender equality and inclusivity obligations in international treaties, such as the UN Charter, and the role of international institutions in underpinning international relations and many of these international law obligations, the lack of visible commitment or tangible progress concerning women is surprising. Are there lessons to be learnt from the private sector? If so, why?

The panel (including Matrix’s Karon Monaghan QC and Professor Christine Chinkin) will explore this topic by looking at the constitution and operation of a number of international institutions and international law practices, and current experience in the private sector.

There will also be an exhibition of photographs from PhotoVoice’s Voice of Freedom project, which supports women who have been trafficked to express themselves through photography, and to play an active role in campaigning against modern day slavery.

This event is taking place at BLP. For booking details, please visit the Law Society’s website.

Wednesday 10 December, 5pm

Twitter Q&A with Hugh Southey QC, ‘Should everyone be entitled to Human Rights?’ Get involved by following @MatrixChambers. Send your questions in advance to and we will be sure to get them answered for you.

For more information on other events taking place within the legal profession during Human Rights Week, please visit the Law Society website, and for more information on Human Rights Day, please visit the UN website.


Booklet on the application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights to asylum procedural law

Dr Iyiola Solanke

The European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) is a pan-European alliance of 85 NGOs. Its purpose is the protection and promotion of the rights of refugees, asylum seekers and displaced persons. Its mission is amongst the most challenging of our time: to promote the establishment of fair and humane European asylum policies and practices in accordance with international human rights law. ECRE activities include dissemination of information, monitoring of human rights violations and contribution to policy development. They also conduct legal research, most recently on the application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights to Asylum procedural law.

This 188-page booklet, compiled in association with the Dutch Council of Refugees and with financial support from the Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Programme of the European Union, draws upon the expertise of EUtopia contributor Gunnar Beck (SOAS, London) as well as Nuala Mole (AIRE Centre) and Marcelle Reneman (VU University Amsterdam). The booklet contains useful information that will increase practical understanding of the how the EU Charter applies to asylum and migration cases. As the authors state, this is important for two key reasons: not only for the proper implementation of the EU asylum acquis but ultimately to ensure that, at a time when asylum seekers, refugees and displaced persons are particularly vulnerable, ‘the rights of those seeking international protection are respected.’

A hard copy of the booklet can be obtained from Kimberly Friesen at the Dutch Council for Refugees. Alternatively, it is available online here.

Some comments on the UKAEL ‘Untying the Knot with Europe’ seminar

On 28 October 2014 the UK Association for European Law hosted a practitioners’ seminar: ‘Untying the knot with Europe: The legal implications of UK withdrawal from the EU‘. Topics covered included the legally complex and probably lengthy process of withdrawal from the EU involving disengagement from EU institutions and agencies, vested EU rights of individuals and companies, a review of UK legislation with an EU provenance, and settling the UK’s future relationship with the EU and the rest of the world.

Rhodri Thompson QC’s observations from the event are available in PDF here.

Events round-up

Over the past few weeks we have spotted a few interesting up-coming conferences, seminars and lectures, which we thought we would share with our readers.

On Monday 13th October, IALS are putting on what is bound to be an excellent seminar entitled “The Court of Justice of the European Union”.  The speaker is none other than Eleanor Sharpston, QC, Advocate General at the Court of Justice. See here for more details.

With the possibility of an in/out referendum if the Conservative party form the next Government, now seems like an opportune moment to consider the legal implications of ‘no’ prevailing.  Handily, the UK Association for European Law have had the same thought.  On 28 October, Professor Sir Alan Dashwood QC, Martin Howe QC, and our very own Rhodri Thompson QC will be speaking at a seminar entitled ‘Untying the knot with Europe: The legal implications of UK withdrawal from the EU’, chaired by Professor Philippa Watson.   More details here.

 On the  EU competition law front, the Franco-British Lawyers Society is holding a colloquium this Friday, 10 October, at the Competition Appeal Tribunal to discuss developments in competition and regulatory law in the UK, France, the EU and the USA, and in particular the soon to be adopted EU Directive on antitrust damages actions.  See here for more details.

And in the field of EU economic law, Professor Sue Arrowsmith will be delivering one of UCL’s Current Legal Problems lectures on 4 December entitled “Rethinking ‘economic’ derogations and justifications under the EU’s free movement rules: Proposals for a new approach and a taxonomy”.  Details here.

Event: Dual Exits? Debating the Scottish referendum, the UK’s possible exit from the EU, and perspectives for Denmark

The Centre for European Politics at the University of Copenhagen is hosting a debate on Scottish independence, the possibility of a UK referendum on EU membership, and similar secessionist tendencies emerging in other parts of the EU on Thursday 20 March 2014. The event features experts and analysts from Scotland, the UK, and Denmark.

Please see the event flyer for the programme and more information.