Article, Event review

UKAEL Annual Lecture 2013 – Sir Nigel Sheinwald on ‘Britain and Europe: A New Stage in an Old Debate’

Adrienne Yong

PhD Candidate at King’s College London


A year ago I wrote on the Annual Lecture Lady Justice Arden gave on proportionality. This year I had the pleasure of attending the UK Association of European Law (UKAEL)’s Annual Lecture chaired by Prof. Sir Francis Jacobs (President, soon to be succeeded by Prof. Sir Alan Dashwood) and presented by Sir Nigel Sheinwald, the previous British Ambassador to the United States and British Permanent Representative to the EU. Needless to say, his ex-civil servant status under the auspices of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office held him in good steed to be discussing the relevant pros and cons of Britain remaining a EU Member State (MS) in light of the proposed referendum by the Conservative Party (should they remain in government come 2017).


Sir Nigel began with the caveat that his background was not in law therefore the talk would be on Europe, as opposed to European law. For a European law researcher, this political aspect was a refreshing break from the convoluted doctrinal analysis that takes up most of a legal researcher’s time. He explained that whilst recognising the Britain-Europe discussion was not novel, the stage the discussion is reaching now is becoming more so. The EU is changing, and these changes are affecting British membership. Sir Nigel broke his argument down into first discussing British exceptionalism, the changes the EU is facing, the international reaction to the UK and his conclusions on British membership of the EU.


British exceptionalism

The main event that Britain found itself lucky to have escaped was the Eurocrisis. It had always been “stubbornly negative” about the EU, but the choices made in regards to opting out of the single currency seemed to bear fruit in terms of escaping the main crisis befalling the EU at present. Its strong sense of Parliamentary sovereignty as well as common law traditions in Britain were two reasons it opted out to begin with.


However, Britain did sign up to membership of the EU for a good reason. Sir Nigel cites Dean Acherson, ex-US Secretary of State, and his lesser known quote about the UK’s roles in both the USA and commonwealth nations. He stated that in both areas, the UK’s role was “about played out.”[1] It would seem that the EU would have been the best next course for the UK, remaining in the mainstream but negotiating special arrangements for themselves considering their relative uncertainty at the outset. Membership was thus “conditional”. Modern EU conditions should seem more acceptable to the UK now, however, one must nonetheless tread lightly given the changes it is undergoing presently.


Changes in the EU

As mentioned, the Eurocrisis is the most obvious change the EU has gone through, which has severely impacted many opinions in the UK as to the value of the remaining in the EU. There is a close relationship between monetary integration, democratic legitimacy and national Member State control, rendering upholding the Eurozone and single market a more difficult task. Sir Nigel toyed with the idea that perhaps now it is not credible to be excluded from the euro given the solidarity demonstrated therein. However, the Eurocrisis left a bad impression on the UK. The EU will have to do the most they can to stabilise the crisis, with efforts focused there rather than with any other issues the UK has prioritised. Being excluded from these crucial tasks and discussions will have the negative effect of widening gap between the UK and its allies.


He also argues that it is unclear if eurosceptics have reflected the population’s sentiments accurately, leading onto the international reaction to the UK’s apparent disdain. Clearly, given the changes the EU is undergoing, stakes are higher if Britain decides to withdraw. However, the more important issue remains that the potential is more real now of this withdrawal. Interestingly, for governments in the Eurozone, survival is most important. The risk of withdrawal of the UK is peripheral in comparison. However, there is still time before this exit is decided with both European Parliament and UK elections a way off. Sir Nigel highlights that the EU may want to consider certain reforms, with the Working Time Directive and tougher action on benefit fraud given the growth of free movement of persons among his suggestions. However, convening an Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) which would be necessary to make the changes the UK so desperately wants, cannot feasibly be done in the time before the referendum.


International Reaction to the UK

The most poignant reaction comes from President Obama of the USA, and his piece of advice to David Cameron as to the UK’s membership, stating that it would be a mistake for the UK to leave the EU.[2] Similarly, the Australian government wrote to William Hague, Foreign Secretary of the UK, on this very topic on February 14 also urging reconsidering leaving the EU. These strong sentiments came off the back of David Cameron’s own speech on January 23 where he asserted that the EU was to ‘secure prosperity’[3] and that there should be a maintained role for the UK. Additionally Sir Nigel emphasised that the Japanese memo to the UK reviewing the UK’s balance of competence between itself and the EU[4] also strongly discouraged leaving, for it would negatively affect the Japanese’s entry to the EU market. Germany has begun to overtake the UK in being the key location for new inward investment projects especially from Japan, thereby incentivising the UK to consider remaining in the EU for trade reasons.[5]


Value of British Membership to the EU

If these compelling arguments in terms of the international reaction were not enough, Sir Nigel continued on to state his position believing in the benefits of the UK remaining the EU. Though quality of membership would diminish as the euro diminishes in importance, many other areas would remain unchanged. The single currency is but one of the EU’s projects. He described it as a long and winding road. The Eurocrisis may accelerate, but otherwise development in the EU will benefit the UK. The arguments to stay in are compelling and even on a business level, institutions such as the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) agree that withdrawal would be detrimental. Exports to the EU are even larger than those of growing emergent economies.


Sir Nigel thus emphatically put his position across that the UK should remain in the EU, and whilst the old debate has seen certain quite significant changes, the position – both in terms of the UK’s membership and one’s opinion as to the benefits of the UK’s membership – should remain unchanged.



Event review, featured

REVIEW: EU Law Panels at the International Graduate Legal Research Conference (IGLRC) 2013 at King’s College London, 8-9 April 2013

Christy Burzio and Adrienne Yong
PhD Candidates at King’s College London


It was a great privilege for the authors of this post to have been present for the seventh annual IGLRC held at King’s College London on the 8-9 April 2013. Indeed, the panels were sure to provoke a lot of great discussion chaired by Professor Alex Türk, both in the realm of the tense political, social side of the Union and in the midst of the tough economic times Europe faced and still faces. As greatly varied subjects within EU Law itself, there were two panels split accordingly, the first discussing the EU’s modern social side including issues on identity, fundamental rights and political undertones of judicial review and revocation and the second primarily focused on the financial side of the EU in austerity, agencies and supervisory authorities in banking.


The first panel consisted of Eleni Frantziou (University College London), Ana Júlia Maurício (Cambridge) and Erin O’Leary (Liverpool John Moores). It was interesting that whilst the topics of each presenter did vary greatly on the face of it, it would ultimately emerge that they all voiced a commonality. Some presented it as a concern, others as an issue to be acknowledged. They all came back to the same point regarding the un-reconciled status of the EU as lacking coherence in terms of its policy and direction. However, whilst pessimistic in nature on the outset, the three presenters each demonstrated a keen desire for there to perhaps be more room for constitutionalism within the EU legal order and structure. The presence of this trend was an interesting one to note and one certainly considered as being characteristic of the EU generally. The themes were presented from the point of view of fundamental rights and horizontal effect, from national final administrative acts and revocation and from a more socio-legal linguistic identity point of view.


The first panel began with a refreshing reference to artistic culture, entitled ‘The constitutional value of the Charter of Fundamental Rights after Lisbon: The importance of being earnest’, analogising Oscar Wilde with the constitutional value of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. After an update on the status of fundamental rights under Lisbon, the sensitive issues were tackled. The fact that there was an undermining of the Charter’s constitutional impact was lamented, which hindered the consolidation of a European identity. This was due to excessive reliance on general principles of EU Law as opposed to the Charter in governing how citizens enjoy rights. It was argued that the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) had to be earnest about their direction for the Charter before it could be clearly stated exactly what their intentions were. The perspective advanced was that there needed to be a new methodology for the application of human rights following the Lisbon Treaty, placing the Charter first, then the ECHR, and following that, general principles to aid in correct interpretation. This interesting methodology instigated a lively debate considering its merits and demerits leaving great food for thought as we then delved into a more technical topic.


The provisions and conditions regarding revoking national final administrative acts could be described as a niche area, certainly the thoughts of this author when reading the title of the second presentation, ‘National final administrative acts contrary to EU Law: A critical analysis of the Court of Justice’s case law’. The speaker considered the political relationship between remedies and behaviour of MS in complying with EU law. Though a topic clearly outside many of the attendees’ remit of knowledge, clarity in both delivery and content aided the audience in comprehending the specific topic separated into two parts, firstly aid (state and national aid) and then in regards to the free movement of persons. The presentation and discussion both centred round the stark difference in treatment concerning the treatment of both by the CJEU. Highlighted were the exceptional cases,[1] which seemed to be at odds with the prior line of reasoning. It was commendable to the speaker that though her topic was not widely understood before the day began, she certainly shed some light on the matter by the end of it. Ultimately again, the theme emerged of the divergence rife within the Union’s constitutional decisions. Her focus on this idea contextualised her area of expertise with that of the previous in term of the delicate balance required in both because of the EU’s constitutional nature.


The panel rounded off with a non-lawyer’s perspective on the hypocrisy in the EU’s motto in her take that it was more akin to being ‘United in diversity: the lesser of two evils’. As highlighted, to hear a fresh non-legal perspective of an idea of predominantly considered in the legal sphere was a welcome and indeed interesting debate. From a largely linguistic point of view, the notion of the diversity of languages and its consequences for the united Union was considered. The large number of both languages and cultures in the EU contribute to the difficulty in becoming such. This was due to the inherent connection between the two and the undesirability to have a lingua franca for the Union. It perpetuated the idea that there has been a failure to achieve equality, which means there is also legal certainty compromised. It seemed that there was an inevitable sphere of linguistic uncertainty. Again, identity was a key issue given that without an agreement as to one, there would constantly be a tension in the supranational order. Whilst there was significant criticism advanced as to the lack of a clear answer for why there is such hypocrisy and tension within the Union, it only served to emphasise again that this characteristic of the EU would be here to stay, and likely the source and subject of many a debate to come.


The second panel was an opportunity for one of the authors to dig deeper into a relevant debate, of which topics and presentations on offer didn’t disappoint. The EU has been epitomised in recent months as an unpredictable political playground. Solidarity and austerity are seen as two conflicting schools of thought, with a line being firmly drawn between the two. The solidarity of many countries has faltered under immense economic pressure. Germany’s resistance to guarantee funds to enable further bailouts and the UK’s proposed attempts at future renegotiations and referendums have spurred a culture of countries looking from the outside at the problems facing the EU from within. The term ‘austerity’ has become taboo to many EU citizens and only the most daring of us would ever utter these words in order to raise a debate. Luckily for us, the speakers were not worried by such a fear.


The first speaker was Luca Lionello, (Catholic University of Milan) with a presentation entitled ‘Austerity Measures, Shift of Sovereignty and Democratisation of European Institutions’. The title was intriguing given its boldness in tackling austerity and sovereignty in the same sentence. Aren’t these terms a modern day juxtaposition? The presentation dug deeper into the reality of austerity measures and the impact they have on country independence. He tackled the recent adoption of the Euro plus pact, the Six Pack and the Treaty on Fiscal Stability, as several EU members have adopted austerity measures to respect the new rules on fiscal integration. However, the question on everyone’s lips was; are these measures legitimate and can they solve anything? Luca raised three main points to question the legitimacy of the measures (1) as fiscal policy is a core competent of national sovereignty, the development of a strong European supervision on national budgets will probably oblige members states to reform their own constitution, (2) the new economic governance is managed by intergovernmental bodies that dont directly respond to the citizens in contradiction with the EU’s democratic principle and (3) the adoption of austerity measures under the new rules on fiscal integration has caused the violation in many member states of social and labour rights. The tone of the talk was hopeful that the way to remedy these illegitimacy’s was providing European institutions with the competence and the appropriate means to guarantee social protection of the EU according to the principle of subsidiary. However, with recent economic catastrophes, like that seen in Cyprus, it seems principle of subsidiarity may take a backseat on the EU agenda while we ride through the storm.


With subsidiarity at the forefront of the audiences mind, we were greeted by Pieter Van Cleynenbreugel, (University of Leuven) with a presentation entitled ‘Between Delegation and Attribution: Article 114 TFEU, Integrated Administration and the Constitutional Circumvention of the Meroni-judgement on the Establishment of new EU Regulatory Agencies’. The cynical tone of the speakers’ thoughts was presented by the notion that the Meroni judgment [2] is still repeatedly invoked to curb the regulatory powers of independent EU agencies. This powerful debate has been made even more relevant by the introduction of the institutional set up and decision-making powers of the new European Supervisory Authorities (ESA’s) in financial markets regulation. A decisional tug of war is ongoing at EU level between the Meroni delegation limits with the EU treaties’ competence attribution framework. It seems the EU has been rather inventive in delegating power as the incorporation allows it to partially circumvent traditional Meroni delegation limits and to re-qualify them as novel, thus enabling and restraining instruments governing the process of agency establishment in general rather than agency delegation in particular. After a discussion on the relevant case law and highlighting Articles 114 and 291 TFEU, the line of reasoning given by the EU was adamantly and persuasively criticised by the speaker, leaving many thinking, where do we go from here?


It was with bated breath that the audience waited for the last speaker on the Panel. Gianni Lo Schiavo (King’s College London) presented on ‘The European Financial Supervisors: A true constitutional challenge in the aftermath of the European Crisis’. This was clearly the hot topic of the panel with many audience members having prepared questions in advance for the speaker to answer. The speaker took a novel approach to his presentation and made a clear case for the introduction of the macroeconomic layer into the European economic constitution established by the Maastricht Treaty. The issues raised by the speaker covered not only the economic crisis but the underlying constitutional crisis as well.  Whilst the new European Financial Supervisors were shown to be important improvements, Gianni spent no time getting to the harsh questions of these entities. The first problem was the shaky ground that these entities seem to have been built upon. The new European delegated governance is being shaped, but it is unclear whether their role will be enhanced as standalone bodies. Secondly, and importantly, the discussion turned to sovereignty; how do these bodies relate to national authorities and their powers, could this indicate a real ‘top down’ process of market regulation and control? The presentation ended stressing the urgency of the need for clear answers of effectiveness and shared responsibilities.


Both panels presented papers that prove themselves in both relevance and content. They raised significant issues, but more importantly current issues, and like with any conference by the end both authors found themselves with more questions than they started with as to the future of the EU’s plans in many aspects, on their direction in future development on fundamental rights, identity and that ever tricky balance between sovereignty and supranationality, and on economic recovery and the agencies that could aid in its implementation.

[1] C-119/05 Lucchini [2007] ECR I-6199; C-249/11 Byankov [2012] judg of 4 Dec 2012, nyr.

[2] Case C-9/56 and 10/56, Meroni v High Authority [1958] ECR I-0133


FEATURED: KCL’s International Graduate Legal Research Conference 2013

A featured event invite for a brilliant Graduate Research Conference organised by PhD students at King’s College London’s Dickson Poon School of Law


The seventh annual International Graduate Legal Research Conference (IGLRC) will be held on the 8-9 April 2013 at King’s College London, home of one of the top 25 law schools worldwide and located in the heart of London’s legal district.

This two-day conference has a reputation for being a unique platform to meet other researchers and academics from across the world. It will also give delegates a fantastic opportunity to listen to a wide variety of selected presentations from legal researchers working in highly topical areas of contemporary legal scholarship. In particular, the following panels have been confirmed to take place during the IGLRC 2013:

Commercial Law
Competition Law
Constitutional Law
Criminal Law and Criminology
Environmental Law
European Union Law
Human Rights Law
Intellectual Property
International Economic Law
Legal Theory
Private Law
Public International Law

This year we are pleased to announce that our keynote speech will be given by Professor David Caron, the new Dean of the Law School at King’s College London.

You can find more information on how to register here.Those registering in advance will receive a £5 discount, paying £50 for the whole conference.

Further information about the conference can also be found via our website or by simply subscribing to IGLRC 2013 on Facebook and Twitter.