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Question:

Explain why European Union law takes precedence over domestic law in the United Kingdom?
 
 

Answer:

Introduction

The supremacy of the laws if the European Union can be considered as a principle where the laws that is made together by the member states of the European Union would prevail in cases where there lies any conflict with the laws of the European Union and the domestic laws of the country (Hartley, 2005). Hence, the national courts should take into account the European Union laws and that law would be taken into account. This legal doctrine had emerged from the European Court of Justice and can be considered as a result of a number of decisions.

Legal decisions supporting the European Union Laws

There were a number of case decisions that supported and favored the European Union laws as compared to the domestic laws. In the case of R v Secretary of State for Transport (R v Secretary of State for Transport, Ex p Factortame, [2001]), the House of Lords had opined that under such circumstances were the acts of the Parliament conflicted with that of the laws of the European Union, the courts in the United Kingdom would apply the European Union laws. Lord Bridge in this case, had stated that this limitation in the sovereignty was voluntarily accepted by the Parliament since even though this limitation was not inherited from the Treaty of Rome, the Parliamentary jurisprudence in the form of the European Communities Act 1972 had well established this principle (Wiesbrock, 2010).

Again in the case of Costa v Enel (Costa v Enel, [1964]), the ECJ had opined that whenever there lays a conflict with the European Union laws and the member state laws, the European Union laws should prevail since any subsequent act which is unilateral cannot prevail when it becomes inconsistent with the concepts of the community. Nevertheless, the Treaty of Maastricht, had provided that this does not mean that the Union prevents the stated from creating laws on various subjects such as the environment, the conditions of work or the social policies. The only criterion is that the laws have to be compatible with the Treaty of Rome and have the appropriate jurisdiction considering the Treaty. Under many circumstances there has been many arguments with regard to the fact that the European Union laws taking over the domestic laws of the states, and in this regard it should be reminded that United Kingdom is a member states that the European Union is a collective union of all member states (Konstadinidis, 1998).

 

Supremacy of the EU Laws

The limitation of the domestic laws of the United Kingdom came up with the enactment of the European Communities Act 1972 and this limitation was totally a voluntary decision. In accordance to the conditions of the 1972 Act (Pearson of Rannoch, 2013), it has been clearly stated that the United Kingdom court had a duty that while delivering any judgment to make the European laws prevail with regard to any national laws.  

The European laws comprise primarily of treaties, regulations and directives. In cases of regulations, these take precedent over the domestic laws of the member stated which are contrary to them. The member state also cannot make any more domestic laws in order to implement the regulations.

Directives on the other had are those set of goals that are required to be attained within a certain period. The member states of European Union can make laws for reaching that goal. The Royal Prerogative provides the power to the British government to enter into any international treaty that binds the country (Wall, 1973). Nonetheless, the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty exists in the state which provides that there exists no changes in the rights given to the British citizens and the other individuals and this can be done without the consent of the Parliament. Such rights can be changed only with the help of any Act of Parliament. Hence, the United Kingdom in order to protect itself from the breach of any international obligation is required to include the international laws in the domestic laws of the country through enactments.

Conclusion

As concluding remarks it can be stated that the UK government is required to override any law that is contrary to the European laws. The British Parliament is still upholding the fact that the European Union laws are supreme. According to the rule of Dicey, in case the Parliament takes the decision to repeal the ECA 1972, it can be done anytime. Theoretically, the laws of the European Union are supreme, but logically it can be stated that the laws of the United Kingdom Parliament is supreme.

 

References

Costa v Enel [1964]ECR p.585.

Hartley, T. (2005). The European Union and the Systematic Dismantling of the Common Law of Conflict of Laws. International & Comparative Law Quarterly, 54(04).

Konstadinidis, S. (1998). Nationality Laws in the European Union. Edited by Bruno Nascimbene [London: Butterworths. 1996. xv + 771 pp. ISBN 88-14-06139-4. £80]. International & Comparative Law Quarterly, 47(01).

Pearson of Rannoch, M. (2013). A bill to repeal the European Communities Act 1972, and to make provision for the Secretary of State to repeal any enactment that has been a consequence of the European Communities Act 1972. London: Stationery Office.

R v Secretary of State for Transport, Ex p Factortame [2001] NO. 7.

Wall, E. (1973). European Communities act 1972. London: Butterworths.

Wiesbrock, A. (2010). Legal migration to the European Union. Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.

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