BOOK REVIEW EU Law for UK Lawyers (second edition)
Reviewed by: Vincent Smith
Author: Aiden O'Neill QC
Publisher: Hart Publishing
Aidan O’Neill has written a comprehensive and substantial work giving an overall view of the application of European Union law at the national level and clearly aimed at the busy UK legal professional who needs an accessible and authoritative reference close to hand.
The book benefits considerably from Mr O’Neill’s experience as a practitioner in both Scotland and England, not only with references to Scots case law in this area where appropriate, but also in his feel for some of the civil law concepts used by the European courts when interpreting and applying European law in specific areas.
The six introductory chapters set out clearly the framework within and from which EU law has originated and operates and how, in particular, the case law of the Court of Justice of the EU (ECJ) has developed the way in which EU law influences and interacts with national legal systems. The profound effect of the ECJ’s assertion of the primacy of EU law over inconsistent national law from the early 1960s onwards, and of its monopoly of interpretation over the growing body of European law, is clearly described.
This is of far more than purely historical interest. As the ECJ has made clear, when applying EU law, national courts must be guided by the general principles of European law which have been developed to underpin the uniform interpretation of EU law across the (now) 27 member states: national courts are also required to use ‘European’ interpretative techniques - for example the ‘purposive’ (or ‘teleological’) approach - which can seem very foreign, to English common lawyers at least.
Litigation practitioners in particular will find Mr O’Neill’s analysis of the application of this overarching, principles based, case law at both European and UK level helpful in predicting how a court should approach an EU law question and what the likely range of possible outcomes for their clients might be.
The main body of the book analyses EU law by subject area (taken alphabetically) from ‘agriculture’ through to ‘workplace safety and health’. Again the choice of subjects is broad and includes areas which are of practical importance to practising lawyers but which have traditionally not been the main focus of specialist EU law text books - with separate chapters for example, on the EU law relating to commercial agents, the criminal law and freedom of information.
The approach to each subject area is a practical one with a focus on the enforcement of EU law by EU and national authorities and the supervision of their activities and remedies available through the courts. Again, the background to the case law is given where relevant, so that the reader can fully understand the way in which EU law principles can be used.
So, for example, the well-known Factortame cases are discussed not only as an expression of the supremacy of EU law over inconsistent national legislation - UK court injunctions must be available against the enforcement even of an entire Act of Parliament - but also in the discussion of the ‘quota hopping’ issue under the common fisheries policy section of the book, in the area of course where the issue arose most acutely as for the UK.
This is a welcome addition to the practitioners’ library and will also help give those with a more specialist view of EU law - competition lawyers for example - a helpful broader perspective over the general principles which apply equally in other fields of EU law.
Vincent Smith is a partner at Sheppard & Smith