EU law: Irrelevant or a commercial advantage?
Should EU law remain compulsory for aspiring solicitors, asks Matthew Allan
Since before the outcome of the EU referendum was known, the Law Society, and its Junior Lawyers Division, have been fielding students' questions about the future of legal studies in the event of a 'leave' result.
Students have since become increasingly agitated by the uncertainty and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has sought to steady the ship in these rough waters. It confirmed: 'Neither the SRA nor the BSB
will be making any change to
the academic requirements in relation to EU law for either
the qualifying law degree
or common professional examination for the coming academic year [2016/17].
And the SRA will be making
no change to its requirements for the legal practice course
for the coming academic year.'
And so, for the time being,
law students will continue to study a branch of law that
they may believe became irrelevant overnight.
Beyond tantalising case law relating to bananas, cats, and such liquid delights as Cassis de Dijon, 'EU law' also tackles the heavy issues, as demonstrated by the weighty-sounding Reprographic Machinery case
or Statistical Levy case. Apart from schadenfreude brought
on by knowing law students must continue to learn these cases, there is more for them
to gain from developing this breadth of knowledge.
Such cases have influenced, hence become part of, our own common law tradition. Beyond whether an EU regulation has been incorporated into UK law
or if a directive has 'horizontal direct effect', the impact of
EU case law over decades will invariably warrant a deeper understanding. But do tomorrow's solicitors really
need to know their TEU from their TFEU? In short, yes.
Not only have the treaties
of the EU contributed towards the UK's own constitutional development by building on
the judicial and legislative checks and balances that underpin our democracy,
but their impact is bigger
than just the UK.
Solicitors cannot afford
to become blinkered by the borders of England and Wales.
In the as-yet-to-be-defined future that law students will practice in, an awareness of
the outside world will prove invaluable, perhaps to even rival the currently lauded 'commercial awareness'. We have all been promised that exciting new markets will open up and that trade will thrive. Knowledge
of how laws have been built
and developed in a complex multi-state framework will
surely only prove to be a benefit.
This cosmopolitan view only goes so far in demonstrating
the value of continuing to
study EU law. A pragmatist may point to areas like human rights, environmental regimes, and the regulation of competition, which will likely continue to be directly applicable here. Not to mention the free movement of goods
and people that will have a lasting impact on how the UK works and trades post-Brexit.
So, despite the uncertainty, students shouldn't rush to bin
EU law. If the tension gets too much, you can at least relax
with a refreshing pint of
Cassis de Dijon. SJ