Well now, it would seem that this really is the $64,000 question! Ever since the UK joined the European Community (the name at that time) back in 1973, many citizens of this country have been outraged by the way in which they feel that ‘Europe’ has continually interfered with their lives. From the ‘Metric Martyrs’ to being told what the shape of our bananas should be, it appears that very few UK citizens have much time, or respect, for the workings of the European Union.
Fundamentally, when the United Kingdom joined the EC, it was forced to give up its sovereignty. The House of Lords was no longer the end of judicial matters within this country; instead the European Court of Justice had the legal right to overturn rulings made by our highest court in the land, when the rulings conflicted with relevant European law.
Although this has actually happened on only a handful of occasions, the threat always hangs in the background and the judiciary and Government must ensure that they respect EU law at all times. When the European Parliament legislates new regulations and directives, these must be entrenched into our own law, and the failure to do so can have quite severe consequences.
Many people in this country actually confuse the workings of the EU with the separate European Court of Human Rights (which was set up in order to ensure the respect of the European Convention on Human Rights [‘ECHR’]). There is a common argument that the EU is to blame for the fact that human rights laws are getting out of hand in this country at the moment. Although this fact may be true (that is a totally separate subject), it is important to note that EU law and the articles under the ECHR are two totally different aspects of our legal system.
EU law is not necessarily the negative ‘monster’ that so many people may think. Many important employment laws have been established through EU law that would probably have never been created if it were not for the fact that we had joined the Union. Moreover, we have the right to move freely between the states of the Union and to work in other countries under certain conditions. If we were not a member of the EU, moving to any country in Europe would probably be far more difficult than it is now.
One of the issues that seem to be perturbing people at the moment comes from the fact that although we are not a part of the euro currency, we are still obliged to help bail out the countries that fall into financial difficulty. Apparently this was something that never needed to happen; it was a parting gift left by the previous Government. This is extremely unfair, especially when we have our own separate currency to keep afloat and trading as strongly as possible on the worldwide forex market.
There is no denying the fact that we enjoy excellent trading relations with many of the other countries in the EU. Ostensibly, it is our membership in the Union and the fact that European trading laws facilitate such ease of trading that must be thanked for this. This is undoubtedly the most important element that keeps us within the EU. All governments are afraid of what would happen if we were to suddenly announce that we were leaving the membership of the EU. This is probably why we are promised referenda on the issue, but once a government comes to power and finally sees the figures involved, they pretend they never even made such a promise in the first instance. Without any doubt, there would be a huge and immediate impact on the economy if this were to happen. However, many people argue that it would not take this country too long to rebuild on these trading relations or even start to shift more towards other countries.
Whatever your opinion on whether or not we should remain within the EU, it would appear that the governments of this country already know what the outcome of any referendum would be: hence the reason why they never actually go through with them in the end. The English legal system must always have a regard to relevant EU law. By studying the Legal Secretaries Diploma through the Institute, you can learn about the effects of European law on the workings of the English legal system.