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Call for Papers: The Impact of Brexit on Fundamental Rights and Freedoms

Vanessa Barbé (University of Valenciennes) and Christina Koumpli (University of Avignon) are inviting abstracts on The Impact of Brexit on Fundamental Rights and Freedoms for a Virtual Symposium on 27 and 28 May 2021, followed by a publication funded by the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Social Sciences and Humanities (CRISS, University of Valenciennes).

Some aspects of the call for papers dealing with rights resulting from the European Civil Justice and the rights of British litigants may be of particular interest for the readers of our blog.

Brexit is a political and legal earthquake with multiple consequences: on the European institutions, on the Member States and their budgets, on international trade, on British administrations and companies, but also on individuals, British or European nationals. The exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union has got a major impact on the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals. The aim of this symposium is to identify the rights and freedoms which are called into question and to understand the potential and proven upheavals affecting their protection.

The impact of Brexit on rights and freedoms of European originis obvious: theoretically, the United Kingdom isn’t supposed to respect European citizens’ rights, workers’ rights, social rights, European environmental rights…. any longer. Admittedly, the country was already benefiting from an adaptation of its European obligations thanks to the policy selection mechanism (opt-out). But still the United Kingdom was a full member of the Union, applying the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital, and taking part in the Union’s founding policies on the environment or education, for instance. To some extent, the UK has pledged not to wipe out all the rights and freedoms formerly created, but their upholding cannot be total, as this would mean denying Brexit itself. Therefore, it would seem that several categories of rights and freedoms may be identified: those that risk to disappear completely (in relation to citizenship, for example), those that could be maintained because they are protected by other sources (international sources, regional sources such as the European Convention on Human Rights, or British legal sources such as common law), and those the future of which is uncertain, but which might be preserved by virtue of a ‘ratchet effect’ or of the principle of non-regression of rights.

The impact of Brexit on each of the four freedoms of movement might be considered, as well as on the categories of rights resulting from the implementation of the Union’s major policies in the fields of labour law, environmental law, health, education, justice and security in particular. Proposals are expected on the right to security related to the European arrest warrant, the right to privacy with regard to the protection of personal data, the right to non-discrimination in labour law, the right to a healthy environment, the right to asylum, etc… Cross-cutting categories of rights may be identified too, such as the rights of litigants, which can be considered by studying the remedies available to British litigants before domestic courts and European institutions after Brexit. The application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights in the United Kingdom’s legal order after Brexit is also a potential source of litigation, as the Court of Justice of the Union has recognised its applicability to a certain extent despite the opt-out declaration issued by the country.

In addition to rights and freedoms of European origin, British rights and freedoms are going to be affected too. Brexit, as a victory for the opponents of Europe in the broadest sense, might be, to some extent, a new opportunity to challenge the Human Rights Act 1998, the Act transposing the European Convention on Human Rights into British law. The future of that Act is uncertain after Brexit, since its repeal is being thought about, and the United Kingdom’s participation in the Council of Europe is being deeply questioned as well.

The political rights of the British citizens are also at the heart of the exit process. It took more than three and a half years after the referendum of June 23rd, 2016 for Brexit to be legally implemented by the British Parliament. Several ad hoc laws have been passed to delimit the powers of the Government and Parliament. The Supreme Court has been asked twice to rule on constitutional disputes arising from clashes between public authorities, and has been able consequently to assert itself as the third constitutional actor in Brexit. The powers and role of the British citizen/litigant may be usefully studied.

Finally, the territorial structure of the Kingdom is under threat. The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is at the heart of tensions between Europe and the United Kingdom, and with it, the question of the protection of the rights and freedoms of nationals of both States. In the same way, due to Scotland’s opposition to the exit procedure, the issue of the region’s independence is once again on the agenda. The Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is strongly advocating a new referendum on the independence of the region, which Boris Johnson formally ruled out in a letter of January 14th, 2020, since any (national or local) referendum must be authorised by Westminster. Furthermore, the political rights of the Scots, and their other constitutional rights could be disrupted as well, if the relationship between the region and the rest of the Kingdom was changed.

In conclusion, the symposium aims at exploring the multiple legal consequences, for the British and for European nationals, arising from the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

Proposals for contribution (qualities of the author and short CV, summary of the communication of about one page) may relate to European law, British law, but also Private/ Public International law or the national laws of the Member States of the Union, as far as their relationships with the United Kingdom are considered.

The deadline for submissions is 15 January 2021.

Proposals are expected at the following address: Vanessa.Barbe@uphf.fr.

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