The UK joined European Union (EU) in 1973, and from that date accepted its obligation to implement European throughout the country and fulfil its obligations under the Treaty.
EU legislation has become part of English law. It does not replace English law, however, it can override those parts of the law that may be against it. If there is a conflict between EU law and English law, EU law will prevail. Some people regard this as an erosion of the sovereignty of Parliament, since the UK has to obey EU law even though it hasn’t been created by our elected representatives.
EU law is created by three European bodies:
- The European Commission draft the proposals.
- The European Parliament debates the proposal and can accept or reject it, or puts forward its own amendments.
- The European Council of ministers enacts the legislation. It can accept or reject the European Parliament’s amendments and make amendments of their own. The proposal becomes law once approved by the Council.
Types of EU legislation
There are three basic types of EU law:
- Regulations are binding acts similar to national law (such as English law) which apply to all EU countries. They are binding in the UK even if this country has not enacted legislation to that effect.
- Directives set out general objectives to be achieved by all EU countries but leave it up to the individual country to make their own laws to implement the directives. The UK has created its own legislation to implement a number European Directives, an example is the Working Time Directive.
- Decisions refer to specific matters brought in front of the European authorities and are only binding on a specific member state, an individual or corporation.
English courts cannot interpret EU legislation, only the European Court can interpret EU legislation. If English Courts, come across any EU legislation that requires interpretation, it has to be remitted to the European Court for a ruling.