In the wake of David Cameron’s speech on the UK’s relationship with the European Union, welcome to the new European Law Blog (ELB) on The Student Lawyer! It will focus mainly on EU law, as the European Court of Human Rights and its jurisprudence are covered extensively by TSL.
From the start, ELB recognises that EU law is not everyone’s favourite subject, however, we all have to pass that exam and hopefully this will be a relatively painless way for you to keep up-to-date. ELB’s aim is to enlighten the busy student on the European legal news that they need to know.
It will include the main news stories of the week, the main cases and profiles on the people within the EU that you need to know, as well as snippets of news from the major European powers.
We hope you enjoy it and ELB looks forward to doing all the hard work for you!
“I AM NOT A BRITISH ISOLATIONIST”: What you need to know about Cameron’s referendum
The key points of the Prime Minister’s speech on the future of Europe are as follows:
- Cameron has confirmed that a referendum concerning the UK’s membership of the EU will appear in the 2015 Conservative manifesto, including more specific dates and details of the referendum, although it will occur in 2017 at the latest.
- The referendum will decide whether the the UK accepts a newly negotiated relationship with the EU or whether they would like to withdraw from the Union.
- The details of the 2017 renegotiated relationship with the EU have not been confirmed, but Cameron states that the working time directive (which give workers within the EU the right not to work more than 48 hours a week, though the UK has opted out of this detail) will be abandoned in its entirety.
- The details of the ‘out’ option in the referendum are not entirely clear, though Cameron recognised that although we may leave the Union, we cannot leave Europe and so a trade agreement with the European single market is certain. The question to ask may be: will it be withdrawal with a simple promise of a trade agreement with Europe, or will a trade agreement already be formed so those who wish to vote ‘out’ have a clear idea of the alternatives of membership?
- It is unclear whether there will be a ‘no’ option to his renegotiated agreement if he does not achieve his aims in the renegotiation.
“A PANDORA’S BOX OF DEMANDS”: Key reactions
As expected, there has been a mixed reaction to the speech, with many in favour of reform of the EU through renegotiation, but are wary of the impact it will have in the context of a worsening economy. In short: Cameron has the majority of Conservative party MPs behind him and The Guardian went crazy.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been open to the possibility of listening to Cameron’s demands, with emphasis on wanting to keep Britain within the EU – a sentiment echoed by many other European leaders (other international reactions can be found here and here.)
ELB’s Personal Reaction Highlight:
‘[Y]ou can’t do Europe à la carte. I’ll take an example which our British friends will understand. Let’s imagine Europe is a football club and you join, but once you’re in it you can’t say: “Let’s play rugby”.’ –
Laurent Fabius, French foreign minister
Unfortunately for Cameron, the view from the Continent follows the line that the EU is not the place for ‘cherry-picking’ or ‘a la carte’ membership and a renegotiation could ‘open a Pandora’s box of demands from all over the EU’.
The view from the business leaders has not been much better: executives at the recent Davos economic conference ‘responded cautiously to Cameron’s long-awaited speech, expressing concerns – but not widespread alarm’. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has indicated his opposition to the idea of a referendum, but has said it would not prevent the Liberal Democrats forming another coalition with the Conservatives at the next election. Bringing us back to the key point of the speech, it is completely dependent on whether the Conservatives win the next election, due in May 2015.
In ELB’s opinion, considering the Lib Dems’ betrayal of the student voters and the rumours of a triple-dip recession for the UK, the likelihood of either a coalition or majority Conservative government is decreasing rapidly. However, Cameron has brought the EU firmly within the gaze of the public eye and, hopefully, this will create an opportunity for debate surrounding the benefits and advantages of the EU, as well as discussion of what must be changed.
ELB’s EU Tweet of the Week:
As ELB follows all the EU greats, it is only natural that an EU-related highlight from the Twittersphere may appear each week.
To start us off, this a tweet from the President of the EU Commission, Jose Manual Barroso (@BarrosoEU), back in December:
Recording conversation with Sarah Jessica Parker on #eunobel in Norwegian Nobel Committee meeting room.
By the way, this isn’t some other SJP, this is the SJP of Sex and the City fame – he’s got a pic to prove it and everything! A collective quizzical look was reportedly seen on the faces of every one of his followers. All part of the EU’s rich tapestry…
COMING NEXT WEEK:
- Who is Jose? A profile on the President of the EU Commission
- The Absol-EU-tly Must Read EU Law Article of the Week
- A Beginner’s Guide to Twitter for the EU Loving Student
- the big Union legal stories, and
- interesting things from the Continent…
The ELB is written by Associate Editor of TSL, Natalie Hearn. Law Graduate from the University of Birmingham, prospective EU Law Masters student, currently teaching English in Japan. Follow her on Twitter: @ninjahearn