Five Myths About How EU Law Affects The UK banner


Five Myths About How EU Law Affects The UK

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By Oshin Shahiean of OTS Solicitors

Much of the misinformation delivered by the Leave campaign in the EU referendum surrounded the amount of UK law that is derived directly from European Union directives and the effect of these on ordinary British people’s lives.

Will Brexit mean the UK is free from Brussels choke-hold?

This blog sets out to debunk some of the myths that still persist, even a month after the Referendum was decided in favour of Leave.

Myth 1: 70% of UK laws are made or co-decided with the EU

European Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding reportedly stated in 2014 that the EU influenced 70% of UK law.

Her full statement was:

"For what should they vote, they do not know. They for instance do not know that the most powerful parliament in Europe, is the European Parliament… Why? Because the European Parliament is co-decider with the member states on European laws. And European laws are integrated into national laws in the member states. So 70% of the laws in this country are made, co-decided, by the European Parliament".

This statement is untrue. A 2010 House of Commons Library report, stated that although it is difficult to say exactly how much UK law is based on EU requirements, it puts the figure at 15-50%. However, the degree of influence of EU directives on UK law depends greatly on the sector being focused on. For example trade, agriculture, fisheries and environmental law are heavily influenced by our EU membership requirements. On the other hand NHS, family, criminal and education law are barely touched by EU directives.

Myth 2 – Bananas must be straight

Let’s debunk this myth once and for all. Brussels never tried to ban bent bananas.

Commission Regulation (EC) 2257/94 states that bananas must be "free from malformation or abnormal curvature". In the case of "Extra class" bananas, there is no wiggle room, but Class 1 bananas can have "slight defects of shape", and Class 2 bananas can have full-on "defects of shape".

Unlike the rule surrounding cucumbers in Commission Regulation (EEC) No 1677/88, the term ‘abnormal curvature’ is not defined.

Myth 3 – Britain is not a sovereign state if it is within the EU

Sovereignty is the legal status that all states possess when they are recognised by the United Nations as a country, reflecting their jurisdiction over a territory and the permanent population living there. The governments of sovereign states can use force in self-defence and to maintain security within their territories; they can enter into agreements with other states in the conduct of their international relations; and can create their own laws.

Under this definition, the UK is a sovereign state and its membership of the EU does not diminish that, any more than its membership to NATO or the United Nations. More importantly, the British Parliament has only agreed to cede its power only in areas where doing so has offered more advantages than disadvantages, and where it has the potential to remain beneficial in the future.

The Leave campaign argued that by remaining in the EU we would never achieve sovereign control over our borders. However, free movement of labour has many benefits. EU nationals contribute millions of pounds to the UK economy in terms of taxes and consumer spending. It also must be remembered that free movement works both ways. UK nationals are free to live and work in other EU member states; does this mean Spain or France are not sovereign states? Of course not.

Myth 4 – The costs of implementing EU regulations is estimated at £600 million per week

This claim is taken from a paper released by Open Europe. The conclusion is misleading because the weekly figure of £600 million per week is simply a division of a projected annual cost of implementing EU regulations which is £33.4 billion. Most people would not rely too heavily on such a calculation their household budget, let alone use it to influence peoples votes in the most important referendum of our generation, but Boris Johnson had no qualms about promoting such a flawed figure during the Leave campaign.

What he neglected to mention was that EU directives produce massive benefits for the UK as well, which Open Europe estimates total £58.3 billion. The think tank also stated that the benefits provided by the top-five most expensive EU directives (mostly) outweigh the costs of implementing them.

For reference, those top five are:

  • The UK Renewable Energy Strategy
  • The CRD IV package (this replaced the Capital Requirements Directives (2006/48 and 2006/49)
  • The Working Time Directive (the benefit cost of this directive is hard to quantify)
  • The EU Climate and Energy Package
  • The Temporary Agency Workers Directive

Myth 5 – EU Human Rights laws prevent the UK from deporting criminals

This is a widely held belief, and true to some extent, however, only a few appeals against deportation succeed on Human Rights grounds.

The Human Rights Act 1998, (which incorporates the principles of the European Convention on Human Rights) allows judges to stop public authorities from acting in breach of the rights contained in it. This includes deporting someone if they would be at risk of "torture or inhuman or degrading treatment" in their home country, or to avoid breaching the right to "respect for private and family life"

There are two situations where a foreign criminal may succeed in resisting deportation on Human Rights grounds:

  1. He or she has been convicted of a relatively minor offence and he or she has lived in the UK since they were a child and have no connections whatsoever with their native country; or
  2. He or she has a partner and/or children in the UK and it is disproportionate to force them to move to another country or split the family by deporting the person convicted of the offence. The criminal must establish a genuine and subsisting family life and prove serious harm will come to the family if a move to deport succeeded.

In reality, as any solicitor and/or barrister who specialises in Immigration law will tell you that successfully defending a deportation case on Human Rights grounds is incredibly hard to do.

OTS Solicitors is a fully regulated, highly regarded law firm, based in the City of London. Our solicitors are considered to be some of the best Immigration experts in the UK. We are regularly called on by the media to make comments on developments in Immigration law. To make an appointment with one of our Immigration solicitors in relation to your Immigration matter, please phone us on 0203 959 9123.

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