How European Law Impacts Your Business In Europe


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Generally, European law is instituted through directives and, when agreed, subsequently transacted into national law across the various member states. EU-derived law is also integrated into UK law via a number of legal methods including secondary law based on rulings from the European Communities Act 1972 (EGCA), competence directives, international agreements and, to some extent, domestic help provided by the devolved governments. The role of the court is largely limited to decisions made by the courts of member states in interpreting the law. However, the European Court of Justice, the ECJ, can have some impact on the functioning of the United Kingdom’s domestic law and the impact of judgments upon the United Kingdom’s citizens.

How Do These Laws And Rules Apply?

The role of the ECJ is primarily to provide an authoritative source of judgments in cases that are outside its competency area such as the case law from the European Communities Act itself. In cases where there is a question of interpretation or construction of law, the ECJ’s decision-making process is considered to be informal, particularly in reference to the powers conferred upon it under article 50 of the European Convention. Therefore, judgments of the ECJ are not subject to statutory review unless they are manifestly taken into appeal. The result is that, for the vast majority of UK cases, the ECJ plays a limited role in the operation of UK law and there are virtually no aspects of UK law that are open to challenge in case law from European courts.

The other effects of the ECJ’s intervention have more to do with the direction of UK policy. There have been numerous instances over the last decade where the ECJ has prevented or changed principles on which UK law is built. The most notable of these changes came via the introduction of the European Working Time Directive. This was implemented in July 2021 with the requirement that all member states establish a system whereby an employee is entitled to a minimum number of working hours per week. The ECJ determined that this was an inconsistent approach towards the freedom of workers to determine how many working hours they could realistically achieve within the framework of the Directive.

Another significant change introduced via the European employment law was the adoption of the ‘tfeu article’ on collective redundancies. The term, according to the ECJ, is ambiguous and therefore could not be considered binding on UK courts. As it is impossible for a national Court to resolve any ambiguity, the ECJ insisted that the ECJ must decide whether a set of rules can be regarded as binding in UK law even if there are no rules in existence to govern the practice under which collective redundancies were being sought. This was the source of much confusion throughout the United Kingdom and led to claims that the ECJ had become more powerful than ever.

Current Role Of The ECJ

Today, the role of the ECJ is mainly limited to determining disputes that have arisen through interpretation of EU law directives and to dealing with cases where the implementation of a decision is being challenged. It is important, however, to note that these are very different things. While the ECJ can exercise powers equivalent to those of the Court of Justice, the role of the latter is reserved for case studies and implementation. Therefore, while the ECJ may refer to directives or acts in relation to specific parties, it cannot order a nation to comply with such directives or act in ways that are more restrictive than necessary. Any decisions it makes are ultimately subject to the competency of the Court of Justice.

In recent years, several European employment tribunals have dealt with aspects of European law in the area of collective redundancies. These tribunals made decisions based upon reasoning that was considered to have been influenced byECJ judgements. One of the most important factors that they considered was the effect that ECJ judgements had on the national legal systems of various nations. The ECJ’s judgment has in some instances affected the functioning of courts as a whole, as well as individual courts within individual countries.

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