Your round-up of the stories that you should discuss at interview this week:
Reported by Dan James
Government Admits that a no-deal Brexit may result in an exit from the patent court
Whitehall has recently conceded that a consequence of leaving the European Union without a deal may be the withdrawal from the embryonic Unified Patent Court, made up of 25 member states.
The government has insisted until now that membership to the court will not be affected due to it not being classed as an EU institution, therefore remaining unaffected by the Brexit outcome.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has however outlined that ‘the UK will have to explore whether it would be possible to remain within the Unified Patent Court and unitary patent systems in a ‘no deal’ scenario’.
Part of the court was due to be based in London within Aldgate Tower, plans for which are now up in the air. The court was originally set to open in 2017.
The Unified Patent Court aims to provide an international court for 25 European Union states which would allow businesses to enforce the new unitary patent system through a single, specialised court.
The court is not an EU institution however is only available to EU member states. The Court of Justice of the European Union is set to act as the court of final instance.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has stated that if Unified Patent Court comes into force and the UK needs to withdraw from both the Unified Patent Court and unitary patent, businesses will no longer be able to use the Unified Patent Court and unitary patent to protect their inventions within the UK.
For more information, see Law Gazette.
- Right to Vote
Reported by Anna Flaherty
Letter found from Imprisoned Suffragette
A letter from Annie Kenney, who was the first suffragette to be imprisoned for campaigning for the right to vote, has recently been found. Annie had been a working-class woman from Oldham. She had worked in a cotton mill from the age of 10 and she essentially ran the suffragettes campaign from 1912 to 1914. It was she, and Christabel Pankhurst, who disrupted a government minister’s public meeting, where they were thrown out and then jailed after Pankhurst allegedly spat at a policeman.
The letter was written to her sister and was discovered in an archive in Canada by Lyndsey Jenkins. Jenkins stated that “We don’t have anything like this before”. The letter was written the day after Kenney was released from a jail in Manchester. The letter had been previously unrecognised – it had found its way to Canada as that was where Kenney’s sister had emigrated. Jenkins continued in saying that at this point of Annie’s life, “She’s risked everything. This could be the worst mistake of her life. She doesn’t know there’s going to be a positive reaction.”
For more information on this story, click here.
Reported by Radhika Morally
The Labour party proposes employers give shares to workers
At the Labour conference on Monday, the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, set out plans for what has been referred to as “inclusive ownership funds”.
This proposal would provide workers with a financial stake in their employers and consequently a larger influence over how the company is run.
Firms would be required to put 1% of their shares into the fund annually, with a maximum of 10%. The share capital available to workers would initially be capped at £500. The remaining funds, estimated to be a sum of £2.1 billion a year by the end of a five-year Parliamentary term, will be diverted to a fund dedicated to public services and welfare.
The proposed scheme would only apply to companies with more than 250 workers, although smaller firms have the option to set up the fund if they wish to. The fund itself would be run by a board of trustees made up of workers, possessing voting rights as the other shareholders do.
Business lobby groups have attacked Labour’s proposal, with the Institute of Directors describing it as ‘draconian’. The business community has shown concern for the possible extent of the damage to the UK economy, to the extent that some investors might search elsewhere.
However, it has also been noted that the policy would give a much-needed boost to the pay of up to 10.7 million UK workers, along with incentivising staff who would feel that they had a stake in the company they work for. Labour are convinced that the small amount of equity requested should not be enough to disrupt the stock markets.
- European Law
Reported by Jutha Cheewat
The European Court Denies Public Access of MEPs’ Spending Records
After the European Parliament turned down a freedom of information request for publication of MEPs’ expenses, Journalists including Transparency International took the matter to the European Court. They called this “The MEPs Project”.
As part of the campaign promoting transparency, the argument put forward was that the expenses records were “necessary to ensure an adequate review of the expenditure incurred by MEPs to fulfil their mandate” according to the Guardian.
The journalists focused on the fact that under the EU spending rules, public funding is only intended for European but not national related matters. They said many MEPs had claimed for maximum allowance of £7705 with just few reimbursement slips.
The Court gave its judgment on Tuesday rejecting the argument as the journalists failed the “appropriate and proportional” test. The court decided that an obligation to publish spending records would undermine MEPs’ privacy.
Having said that, Hautala, a Finnish Green MEP, who has been continuously campaigning for more transparency in the European Parliament said
“The majority of MEPs agree on the need for more transparency around their own expenses, but the Bureau of the parliament and president Tajani refuse to act. The rules need changing now, otherwise, the misuse of expenses will continue in the shadows,”
There has been an uproar since the long-awaited scrutiny proposal was rejected by the parliament earlier in March this year.