Copyright © 1995 Professor John Bridge.
First Published in Web Journal of Current Legal Issues in association with Blackstone Press Ltd.
Butterworths' Current EC Legal Developments Series, in which this volume appears, is "designed to provide the lawyer, consultant, researcher etc with commentary and source materials of relevant practical interest on fundamental changes in Community law". Other titles in this Series, as the Publishers' Note goes on to say, consist of the full text of proposed or enacted legislation or judicial decisions under review together with analysis and comment by practitioners in the relevant area.
The inclusion of this book in such a Series is rather unexpected. There is very little which is really new to be found in this area of the law. That membership of the European Community has a major impact on national constitutions was already established at the time of the accession of the United Kingdom. True, the ramifications of that impact have been gradually revealed by the European Court of Justice as opportunities have presented themselves over the years. But these developments have been fully documented in the literature, not least in Lawrence Collins' European Community Law in the United Kingdom, another Butterworths book, the fifth edition of which is now in preparation. The Treaties and the European Communities Act apart, there is very little by way of legislative texts on the constitutional implications of membership; what there is has been the subject of extensive comment and commentary. There is, of course, the case law which is of paramount importance in this area of Community Law and it is that upon which the author focuses.
In his Preface the author states that his purpose is "to examine what legal effects membership of the European Union is having on the constitutional structure of the United Kingdom". The book is "a reflection by a practising lawyer on current legal developments and constitutional reform initiated by the courts". It aims to be "a work purely of legal description and consideration of the activities and decisions of the judges". After an introductory, scene- setting chapter, Chapter 2 tells the well known story of the evolution of the European Court of Justice as a constitutional court and the emergence of the "European Constitution". Chapter 3 examines the doctrine of the supremacy of Community law and its progressive acceptance and adoption by the courts of the United Kingdom. Chapter 4 considers the consequences of that acceptance and adoption, particularly in terms of the doctrine of proportionality and its implications for the judicial review of national legislation for its conformity with Community law. Chapter 5 addresses the question whether the impact of the reception of the doctrines of Community law by the courts of the United Kingdom will be limited to Community law or whether it will also permeate matters of United Kingdom law. The brief final chapter reviews the possible development of a "European Common law". All of this is related in a brisk and well-written text and presented in a scholarly and well-documented manner. But much of it surveys very well-tilled ground. The most valuable parts, in the reviewer's opinion, are the discussions of proportionality and of the indirect reception of Community law. These are important matters which might have been better debated in the format of a law review article rather than in a book of this type.
The last third of the book consists of four Appendices. These reproduce the texts of the judgment in Ex parte Rees-Mogg challenging the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty, the 1991 and 1992 Opinions of the European Court of Justice on the Draft Agreement between the Community and the countries of EFTA on the creation of the European Economic Area, and an unreported 1994 decision of the Court of Session in which the constitutionality of the Maastricht Treaty was challenged. The reasons behind the choice of these materials are puzzling and not divulged. Only the last of them could claim to be a new and not easily accessible text. The two cases get cursory mention and there is some discussion of the Opinions, but nothing to explain why these texts have been given such prominence.
It is to be doubted whether this book serves the purposes of the series in which it appears. £87.50 is also a lot to pay for information and comment most of which is readily available elsewhere. This is an accurate and sometimes thoughtful review of an important topic, but it is difficult to envisage who would turn to it as a basic source book. It is the author's wish "to bring the legal and constitutional developments noted...to a wider notice and...thereby to raise the level of political and public debate and awareness on the legal and constitutional issues raised by the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union" (Preface). That is a worthy aim but not, sadly, one that is likely to be achieved by this book.