Are the decisions of the European Court of Justice binding on English courts?


The courts system in England and Wales is designed to interpret and enforce justice in the civil and criminal cases that come before the courts.

The UK does not have a codified legal system, which is why it is important to gain expert legal advice from a civil litigation solicitor that has experience of the law in your part of the UK.

What is the ECJ?

The European Court of Justice is the judicial institution of the European Union, a group of 27 member states, including the UK, joined to promote economic and social development within the EU territories.

The powers of the EU and its institutions, including the European Court of Justice (ECJ), are conferred in various treaties, which are negotiated and agreed by the member states.

Member states give up some of their sovereignty to make laws and decisions, passing that power to the European institutions, which also include the EU commission, Council or Ministers and an elected European Parliament.

You can’t for instance appeal a case you have lost in a court in England to the ECJ, as the ECJ would not normally have jurisdiction to rule. However, if your solicitor believes that your case touches on any EU legislation, your solicitor can ask the ECJ to clarify any points that are unclear.

Who has the final say?

You should note that even if the ECJ does give an opinion of EU law as it affects your case, the UK court hearing your case still has the final decision about the case you have put before it.

Your solicitor will make this clear when outlining what steps you could take to obtain a positive outcome for your case. If you are unsure about how EU law impacts on the UK, an EU law solicitor can outline this for you, and relate any specific EU legislation to your particular case.

These actions could impact on a case that is being heard by an English court. Your solicitor can assess the precise details of your case, and use their knowledge of EU law to decide whether any EU decision would have a practical influence on your case.

For more information on decision-making, visit our EU decisions information page.

Has your UK lawsuit crossed over into EU legislative ground? Contact Law can put you in touch with a European Union lawyer who can advise on the application of EU law to your legal case. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or fill out the web-form above.

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