Sources of EC law and the interaction between EC and domestic law
The sources of Community law are both<
1. Primary (the EC Treaty in its many versions) and
2. Secondary (Regulations, Decisions, Directives and ECJ rulings).
- Of these, Treaty Articles, Regulations, Decisions and ECJ rulings have direct effect, namely they are immediately part of the national or domestic legal system, binding both the governments of the member states (vertical direct effect) and their individual citizens (horizontal direct effect).
- Directives differ in that they need to be ‘transposed’ into the national legal system by member state action – legislative or administrative – before they become legally binding.
- Nevertheless, according to the principle of indirect effect, when a national judge considers an area regulated both by national law and an EC Directive, he or she should interpret the former in the light of the objectives of the latter.
- This means that member states cannot rely on their own failure to implement Directives in order to deny their citizens rights that the Directives created.
In the context of the UK constitution, the supremacy of EC law raises particular difficulties: under the principle of parliamentary sovereignty, no UK Parliament can bind its successors and, therefore, the Parliament which saw the UK’s accession to the EC could not have surrendered the sovereign rights of its successors. The European Communities Act 1972 strikes a balance between the principles of parliamentary sovereignty and the supremacy of EC law’ and must be studied carefully.