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‘Brexit’, Article 50 TEU and the Constitutional Significance of the UK Referendum

Published on July 6, 2016        Author: 

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This post tries to answer two questions:

First, who has the right to trigger the process of Article 50 TEU under the UK constitution? Second, what is constitutional significance of the UK referendum?

Article 50 TEU is the provision that governs the process of withdrawal of an existing EU Member State from the Union. The provision was introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon and it has not been used thus far. This provision is drafted in a way that is not too prescriptive with the clear intention for allowing a considerable margin for manoeuvring in the ensuing negotiations.

Article 50 (1) stipulates that a Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements whereas Article 50 (2) provides that the relevant Member State must notify its intention to the European Council.

It is clear that once the process of Article 50 begins, the negotiating position of the Union is strengthened. This is because Article 50 (3) TEU imposes a time frame for the completion of negotiations (two years). If at the end of this period the EU and the Member State fail to reach an agreement, the Treaties cease to apply to that Member State thus leading to a disorderly withdrawal. The two year period may be extended by the European Council acting unanimously. Since the costs of a disorderly withdrawal are apparently higher for the Member State that leaves the Union, it is obvious that the two year time-frame hangs like a sword of Damocles over its shoulders. This means that the question of when the process begins and on whose initiative is critical.

The ‘who’ and ‘when’ under the UK Constitutional Arrangements Regarding the Invocation of Article 50 TEU

The question of who has the power to trigger Article 50 TEU has attracted a deserved amount of attention by scholars and commentators. Most of the scholars agree that EU partners cannot trigger the withdrawal process (see for example Marl Elliott, Sionaidh Douglas-Scott, Nick Barber, Tom Hickman and Jeff King).

This is certainly the case from a legal point of view however, it is possible for the EU to increase the pressure on the UK to trigger the renegotiation process. How? Read the rest of this entry…

Filed under: EJIL Analysis, European Union
 
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Beyond the Mantra, Towards the Granular: The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression’s Report on the Private Sector in the Digital Age

Published on July 5, 2016        Author: 

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I. Introduction

“To what extent should the private sector be responsible for the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression?” This is the question at the heart of the latest report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Professor David Kaye (“Special Rapporteur”), which he presented at the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council, which ended last week. The current report does not purport to offer comprehensive answers, but instead maps out the myriad of ways in which the private sector impacts upon freedom of expression in the digital age, the “regulatory ecosystem on the Internet”, and the legal and policy issues that deserve particular attention. Surprisingly, UN human rights bodies only began really grappling with the challenges of the Internet five years ago. In this period, there have been reports of the Special Rapporteur and his predecessor on encryption and anonymity tools, mass surveillance, and the Internet as well as a series of Human Rights Council and General Assembly resolutions on human rights on the Internet and the right to privacy in the digital age. Such texts have made the statement that “the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression” into a mantra. Against this backdrop, the current report is pioneering for several reasons.

II. Breaking new ground

First and foremost, the report is comprehensive in its mapping of the digital environment and related freedom of expression challenges. As the delegation of the Netherlands recognised, it is the “first full overview of all private actors in ICT whose actions impact freedom of expression and opinion”. The report disaggregates the “vast” and “overlapping” range of roles played by private sector actors in “organising, accessing, populating and regulating the Internet” and distinguishes certain pressing legal and policy issues, concerning content regulation, surveillance and digital security, transparency and remedies. In doing so, it identifies the array of private actors including telecommunications and Internet service providers, web hosting services, hardware firms, search engines and social media platforms, media companies, companies producing surveillance technologies and multi-stakeholder processes. It also, importantly, draws on examples from many countries around the world, including Sweden, Russia, Uruguay, Brazil, China, India, South Africa, Tanzania, the UK and the US.   Read the rest of this entry…

 

Brexit and International Law

Published on July 4, 2016        Author: 

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In earlier posts (here and here) there was a discussion about the different scenarios that might play out following the UK’s vote to exit the European Union. These and other debates have focused largely on the legal implications for the UK and the European Union and the modalities of their future relationship. Yet the UK’s withdrawal from the Union will also have consequences at the international level, especially for the hundreds of international agreements concluded by EU and the UK with third states and international organizations. In this post I will look at some of the international law issues that arise from the UK’s exit from the European Union. The EU is a unique, perhaps even sui generis, international organization, but it is an international organization nevertheless and withdrawal will necessarily gives rise to questions under public international law. An important question in this regard is the fate of the international treaties to which the EU and the UK are party.

The first point of departure are the rules in the treaty establishing the international organization itself, that is, the EU Treaties. The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT) establishes that a party may withdraw ‘in conformity with the provisions of the treaty’, which in this case is Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU). Once this has been invoked, the EU and the UK will negotiate an agreement setting out the arrangements for withdrawal. Some have argued that the UK might be able to ‘bypass’ Article 50 TEU using international law, by invoking the Brexit vote as a ‘fundamental change in circumstances’ according to Article 62(1)(a) VCLT. Such proposals should not be taken seriously. This article of the VCLT was deliberately worded negatively, stating that a fundamental change in circumstances cannot be invoked unless two restrictive conditions are fulfilled. These are: (a) the existence of those circumstances constituted an essential basis of the consent of the parties to be bound by the treaty; and (b) the effect of the change is radically to transform the extent of obligations still to be performed under the treaty. The International Court of Justice has moreover pointed out “the stability of treaty relations requires that the plea of fundamental change of circumstances be applied only in exceptional cases.” (Case concerning the Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros Project (Hungary/Slovakia) (Judgment) [1997] ICJ Rep 7. para. 104) As Professor Kenneth Armstrong argues:

“there is simply no way that the European Court of Justice would permit the autonomous legal order of the European Union and the specific procedural mechanism of Article 50 TEU to bend to international law in this manner.”

While it is possible that avenues other than Article 50 may be used (for instance, to allow a form of ‘associate membership’) the EU Treaties provide a clear provision that covers the exit of a Member. Article 50 is silent, however, for the most part on the important issues that will face the UK, the EU and the many other states with whom they have legal relations. Read the rest of this entry…

 
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Announcements: GRILI Conference on International Immunities; GoJIL New Issue; Chatham House Event on Freedom of Expression; Colloquium on Maritime Disputes Settlement

Published on July 3, 2016        Author: 

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1. GRILI Conference on ‘International Immunities: Law in a State of Flux?’. On 15-16 December 2016, the Ghent Rolin-Jaequemyns International Law Institute (GRILI) at Ghent University will be hosting an international two-day conference entitled ‘International Immunities: Law in a State of Flux?’ The aim of the conference – organized in partnership with the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KUL), and Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL) – is to take stock of recent evolutions pertaining to international immunities and to offer a comprehensive tour d’horizon of outstanding challenges and controversies. The conference will bring together distinguished scholars as well as practitioners, civil servants and other experts (e.g. ICC, ILC, EU, Foreign Affairs), to broach the various issues at stake. Presentations will be grouped into four clusters: jurisdictional immunities, immunity from execution, immunities in the international legal order, and immunities of the armed forces / in armed conflict. The conference will also feature a roundtable on the immunities of foreign officials, during which the ILC Special Rapporteur Concepción Escobar Hernández will present her views and engage with expert respondents. The conference will conclude with a keynote lecture by Judge Christine Van den Wyngaert of the ICC. Detailed information can be found here.

2. GoJIL New Issue. The Goettingen Journal of International Law (GoJIL) has recently released the first issue of its seventh volume. The 7.1 edition is a special issue on the exercise of International Public Authority. It emerges from a fruitful collaboration with scholars who participated in workshops on this topic at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg. The new edition features an article by Matthias Goldmann and Mona Sonnen. Further contributions are from Tim Staal, Pedro A. Villarreal, Biel Company and Clemens A. Feinäugle. The journal’s latest issue can be accessed at www.gojil.eu.

3. Chatham House Event – Challenges to Freedom of Expression. The International Law Programme at Chatham House will be hosting a meeting on ‘Challenges to Freedom of Expression’ on 20 July 2016 at Chatham House. For further details and to enquire about registering see here.

4. Public International Law Colloquium on Maritime Disputes Settlement.  The Chinese Society of International Law and the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC) will jointly host a Public International Law Colloquium on Maritime Disputes Settlement on 15 – 16 July 2016 at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center. The Colloquium will focus on topics including: territorial sovereignty, maritime entitlement and the application of international law; the law and practice with respect to archipelago and islands; applicability of compulsory procedures under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea: preconditions, limitations and exceptions; and, historic rights in international law. Currently, many prominent international law experts, including incumbent and former ICJ judges, ITLOS judges, ILC members, leading scholars and practitioners at the forefront have confirmed to speak on this Colloquium. More information can be found here.
Filed under: EJIL Analysis
 
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New Blog: Foreign States in English Courts

Published on July 1, 2016        Author: 

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Over the past couple of decades there has been a significant increase in the number of cases in the English courts raising questions of international law. Many of those cases involve proceedings by or against foreign states, or occasionally raising issues involving foreign states even when not a party to the proceedings. I would like to draw the attention of our readers to a new blog Foreign States in English Courts which has been established by my colleague Professor Dan Sarooshi (also of Essex Court Chambers) and Robert Volterra (senior partner of Volterra Fietta) which will assist in keeping on top of this burgeoning case law. The blog is intended to provide concise, informative case summaries of recent and important English court decisions involving foreign States as litigants.  As they say:

This blog aims to highlight the latest, most important case law involving foreign States in the English courts. Our aim is not to provide a complete account of the factual matrix and law decided by each case, but rather to provide the busy practitioner with a quick reference to the most important cases as they emerge.

I am sure the blog will also be of interest to academics and students.

 
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