The UK is one of 28 member states of the European Union and is subject to European Union legislation. It is an organisation that caters for economic, political, military and other common factors affecting the member states.
European Union law was initially referred to as European Community Law. EU law is a body of court judgements, treaties and law which acts together with other legal systems in the EU Member States. The law is highly respected in the member countries and in case of conflict whether economic, political or those involving human rights, the law is given priority over the national law and member countries.
The English legal system refers to the legal system that regulates all the legal matters in the UK. Joining of the UK to the EU made the community law to be applicable in this country. However this applicability has immense effects on the British legal system. Unlike other member countries, these sources of law are concerned with areas that the European Union has concerns. These areas include agriculture, companies, fishing, competition, free movement of goods and workers, consumer policy, education, health and environment.
EU law also affects the way the English legal system addresses the rights of United Kingdom citizens. Basically, the areas affected include those dealing with rights of employees, female workers and children.
Generally, joining of the United Kingdom to the European Community has resulted in a substantial change in the English legal system. Domestic laws made by the parliaments of the individual Member States, including Britain are less influential in their respective countries since they must conform to legal requirements stipulated by the European Union law. This has led to several changes in the English legal system in favour of the community law.
Here are some examples to demonstrate the true scale of the influence that the EU employs over our every-day lives.
- Car booster seats for children – Since September 2006, the EU Directive 2003/20/EC has stated that children up to the height of 135cm or those who are under 12 years of age must be buckled down by a booster seat when travelling in a car. If not, drivers can be fined up to £500 for their breach of this Directive.
- Free trade – Due to a combination of the free movement legislation and EU competitions laws, there are no quotas or tariffs for companies exporting and importing goods and services within the EU. This specific legislation which governs this area intended to make it easier for UK businesses to trade across the EU’s 27 Member States.
- EU competition law – Competition law, means that if you have a company within the EU, you should be able to do business across the EU without pressure from larger companies. The laws found in Article 101 and 102 of the TFEU is designed to stop big firms from abusing their positon and setting up cartels and monopolies, which have the intention to jeopardise or harm other similar firms within the market. This protects smaller firms which would otherwise find it difficult to compete.
- The European Parliament – Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) actually have a huge influence on how our daily lives are run. They may not set our taxes or decide the closure of a local school or hospital, but in Brussels the decisions they make directly affect our jobs, family life, our healthcare and the rules surrounding energy. For example, in the last few years, the MEPs cut the cost of texting from abroad and roaming rates by a huge amount. They also stopped airlines from using absurd, misleading adverts that suggest you can fly to Spain for 50p!
- The working time directive – The working time directive, which provides EU workers with the right to a minimum number of holidays each year and a certain amount of rest, means that doctors and nurses are restricted to a 48 hour working week. The purpose of the Directive is to protect people’s health and safety as the EU has recognised that excessive working time has been shown to be a major cause of stress, depression and illness. On the other hand, unions’ claim that it has damaged the amount of training junior doctors can receive.
- Studying abroad - Thousands of young people and students now move across the EU to study due to the facilities implemented by the EU for the free movement of students. Most of these people take advantage of the European Regional Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students (ERASMUS) which was introduced in 1987 and has now become one of the EU’s most popular programmes.
- Shopping abroad – Although we have the famous Oxford Street in London for shopping, this does not stop the British from going abroad to shop. Competition generated by the EU free market has meant that quality goods have increased, whilst prices have decreased. Evidently this is good news for customers. As long as you are shopping for your personal use, EU citizens can shop in any other Member State without having to pay additional tax. You also have full consumer rights when shopping outside the UK, thanks to safeguards introduced by the EU.
Europe’s power is easy to miss, but it is clear that being part of the EU brings many changes and advantages to our daily lives. Whilst many rules and regulations have been introduced by the EU to apply equally to all Member States, the UK has also been able to retain its identity as a constitutional monarchy.
Information sourced from BBC politics & news and The Student Lawyer