Facts of Life: How Michael Gove misrepresents the effects of EU law and the ECJ case law

justice statueIn his response to the Treasury’s report on Brexit, Michael Gove argued that EU Law and the European Court of Justice are responsible for imposing undesirable laws on the British public. In this post, Piet Eeckhout, Professor of EU Law at UCL, examines to what extent Gove’s claims stand up to close scrutiny.

The Brexit debate is starting to crystallise. The Treasury’s report on the negative impact of the alternatives to full membership presents the Leave campaign with considerable difficulties. The one EU policy that has always met with broad-based approval in UK political circles is the single market. At least membership gave that purely economic benefit – “if only the EU could be confined to constructing this free internal market” has been a persistent rallying cry. For the Leave campaign now to argue that it does not matter too much whether the UK is inside the EU internal market is rather incongruous, and aims to puncture the political consensus. Not an easy thing to do.

It is therefore not surprising that Michael Gove, in his headline speech in response to the Treasury report on how “the facts of life say leave”, struggles to take issue with the report’s findings. Instead, the focus is on democratic self-government, even “independence” (as if the EU were a colonial master), and on removing the yoke of EU law and of the ECJ case law. The broad argument is that the limited negative economic effects of Brexit – if there are any – are outweighed by the return of full democratic self-government. Continue reading

Losing citizenship and democratic authority in Europe

European Parliament/Flickr. (CC 2.0 by-nc-nd)Damian Chalmers, Professor of EU Law at LSE and Fellow of UK in a Changing Europe, argues that the EU will continue to be perceived as authoritarian until it reforms its relationship with national citizenship and political community. This piece is part of the UCL European Institute’s commissioning partnership with openDemocracy.

When the EU’s heads of state and government met in Laeken in 2001 to start the process that culminated in the Lisbon treaty, it was not meant to be like this. A new settlement was to be built that would not only be the byword for constitutional democracy beyond the state but that would also provide the framework within which a post-national community could live at ease with itself. Individuals were to be as comfortable being and living alongside EU citizens as they were alongside national citizens.

Fast forward nearly 15 years and migration has become a touchstone for the dissolution of that dream. The rawness of its politics has consumed the EU’s decision-making structures and seemingly overwhelmed its authority. More pervasively, migration is associated with a climate of popular mistrust of political institutions, both national and EU, in which the latter are perceived by a part of the citizenry as unresponsive and unable to deal with claim and counterclaim. The commitments of national citizens to foreigners, be these other EU citizens or non-EU nationals, has been called increasingly into question and into competition with commitments to fellow nationals. Continue reading