What happens if Britain doesn’t comply with EU law?

Traditionally, international organizations have had to rely on diplomacy and negotiation to ensure that states stick to the obligations they have undertaken. When things break down, the result has often been trade wars and retaliatory measures. Things are different in the EU.

One of the tasks of the European Commission is to ensure that Member States obey EU rules and it can bring states before the European Court of Justice if it believes that the rules are being broken. Over the last 5 years, 10 cases have been brought against the UK. This compares with 18 cases against France, 17 cases each against Germany and Spain, and 10 against Ireland.

What really makes the EU different is the extent of enforcement that takes place in national courts. In an important ruling in 1963, the Court of Justice said that European Union law could be applied in national courts. This gives individuals and businesses a direct means of protecting their EU law rights against national rules and restrictions that infringe EU law.

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