European Union Law Briefing - March 2019

EU Parliament outlines plans for no-deal Brexit

In an article released on Thursday 21 March, the European Parliament (EP) has outlined its contingency plans which will come into play in the event that the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal in place on the revised exit date of April 12.

Although attempts at forecasting Brexit is a bit of a fool's errand, key European power brokers now believe that a no-deal outcome is increasingly likely - even though they have continually voiced their opposition to this potentiality.

There remains a staunch unwillingness to renegotiate Mrs May's deal in Brussels after successive meaningful votes failed to get it through the Commons, and political will seems to be lacking for a second referendum even after Saturday's march. After all, no-deal is the legal default - meaning legislative intervention would be required to avert it.

In any event, the EP's article makes the following recommendations for dealing with areas whereby co-operation will still be required post-Brexit:

  • Aviation: UK airlines will be permitted to operate provided reciprocal provision is made for EU airlines in the UK.
  • Rail: Rail safety authorisations will be extended to ensure the Eurostar remains operation, provided the UK do the same.
  • Road: Logistics companies and coaches will still be able to travel in and out of the EU provided reciprocal arrangements are made.
  • Welfare: EU citizens in the UK will keep their social security entitlements and vice versa.
  • Erasmus: Students will be able to complete ongoing programmes - no mention is made of future provisions.
  • Northern Ireland: Funding for peace and reconciliation processes guaranteed until 2020 to safeguard Good Friday Agreement.
  • Fishing: Quota-swapping still valid until end of calendar year, will allow access to EU waters if reciprocal arrangements made.
  • Medical: The European Health Insurance Card will no longer be valid, both for UK citizens visiting the EU and vice versa.



No discrimination against junior teachers - ECJ

The European Court of Justice has ruled that the two-tier system for paying teachers in Ireland is not contrary to European prohibitions on discrimination in the workplace, namely discrimination based on age. 

The case was brought by the Irish National Teachers' Organisation on behalf of Tomás Horgan and Claire Keegan - both junior teachers who began their employment after the pay scales were introduced. 

The INTO had requested a preliminary ruling concerning the interpretation of Articles 1 and 2(2)(b) of Council Directive 2000/78 which established a general framework for equal treatment in the workplace. Article 1 provides as follows:

'The purpose of this Directive is to lay down a general framework for combating discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation as regards employment and occupation, with a view to putting into effect in the Member States the principle of equal treatment'.

Article 2(2)(b) then holds:

'1. For the purposes of this Directive, the "principle of equal treatment" shall mean that there shall be no direct or indirect discrimination whatsoever on any of the grounds referred to in Article 1. 

2. For the purposes of paragraph 1:

(b) indirect discrimination shall be taken to occur where an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice would put persons having a particular religion or belief, a particular disability, a particular age, or a particular sexual orientation at a particular disadvantage compared with other persons unless: 

(i) that provision, criterion or practice is objectively justified by a legitimate aim and the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary...'

The respondents in this case were the Minister for Education and Skills, the Minister for Finance, the Minister for Expenditure and Reform and the Attorney General.

At issue here was the lawfulness of measures enacted in January 2011 which provided for entry-level salaries for teachers which were 10% lower, and whether this measure was objectively justified by a legitimate aim - namely the need to respond to the global financial crisis.

The court rightly pointed to the fact that while this appears to discriminate against younger candidates, in fact it applies to all entrants to the public service irrespective of age. This is an important distinction and indeed, formed the basis of the ECJ's decision. As regards costs, these were deemed not recoverable.

The case now returns to the Labour Court where the two teachers, supported by the INTO, will reply to the preliminary ruling of the ECJ, and are likely to stress the need to look to the substance rather than the form - as 70% of newly hired teachers since 2011 are under 25 years of age.

Read the ECJ's judgment in full here.


Guaranteed Irish or guaranteed transparency of origin?

And lastly, we look to Regulation 2018/775 which pertains to the regulation of food information surrounding the origin of primary ingredients. This new regulation has been imposed to give effect to Article 26(3) of EU Regulation 1169/2011

The rules, which are scheduled to come into effect in April 2020, is designed to provide a framework to be used in the ascertainment of the source of primary ingredients in food. 

For example, issues have arisen whereby goods are stated as being produced in Ireland and sometimes this just means that the primary ingredients are flown in from elsewhere to be processed and packaged here.

Under the scope of this new regulation, the origin of the primary ingredient of food must be made known to the purchaser in circumstances where it differs from the origin of the food itself, ie Belgian chocolate cannot be wholly Belgian if the cocoa beans have been produced in Bolivia.

The Regulation is also quite all-encompassing as it place an obligation on food businesses to indicate the origin of all primary ingredients on food packaging, subject to the common sense proviso that it will not apply to those foodstuffs which contain an actual place name in their title - ie, Turkish delight. 

Read the regulation in full here



Note: This is not intended to be relied upon as legal advice. Any errors should be notified to the editor and will be dealt with accordingly.

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