Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Lawyers challenge UK Government over local rules

‘New’ EU migrant workers rights • Gibraltar's system more restrictive than UK, say complainants

Two locally based Scandinavian lawyers have challenged transitional regulations in Gibraltar relating to the employment rights of citizens from the new member states of the European Union.


Alexander Broch co-founder of Broch Corporate Services LLP (BCS) and Gibraltar law firm Europe Advisers Ltd
Alexander Broch, a lawyer with dual British and Danish nationality, and his Swedish colleague Fredrik Green have filed a complaint against the UK Government with the European Commission in Brussels.

In it, they argue that Gibraltar discriminates against migrant workers from new EU countries because its rules are more restrictive than those in place in the UK.

They add that Gibraltar, which joined the EU as part of the UK, is not in a position to implement different rules in this respect and that UK transitional arrangements should apply here.

If the complaint is upheld, the lawyers say that it could open the door to compensation claims from migrant workers against the Gibraltar Government.

The legal dilemma follows the EU enlargement last year. Ten countries, mostly in eastern Europe, joined the EU in a move that gave their citizens the right to work in other member states.

The complaint filed yesterday focuses on transitional rules implemented in Gibraltar to accommodate such migrant workers. Those rules state that citizens from eastern European countries wishing to work in Gibraltar must first apply for and obtain a valid work permit from the government.

In the UK, however, transitional regulations in respect of migrant workers only state that workers have to register within 30 days of arriving.

“The most significant difference between these transitional regulations is that in Gibraltar there exists the possibility to deny a worker a work permit and in doing so, prevent that person from working in Gibraltar,” the complaint states. “This possibility does not exist in the United Kingdom, where the transitional regulations cannot so hinder anyone from registering as a worker.”

“This difference in regulations within a member state cannot be acceptable,” the complaint adds.

The key to the complaint lies in the terms under which Gibraltar joined the EU as part of the UK. The UK’s Treaty of Accession to the EU set out some exceptions in relation to Gibraltar, which for example was left out of the EU’s common agricultural policy and some of its taxation laws. But there are no exceptions in the treaty in relation to Gibraltar and new member states of the EU. As such, “the specific transitional rules implemented by the Government of Gibraltar cannot be in compliance with the legislation of the European Union, and therefore the transitional rules of the United Kingdom should apply in all of its European territories,” the complaint says.

Speaking in the offices of Europe Advisers, his locally-based company, Mr Broch told the Chronicle yesterday:

“It shouldn’t have been drafted in the first place because Gibraltar doesn’t have a separate membership of the EU from the UK.

That’s what it’s all about,”

he added, referring to the complaint.

Mr Broch, whose group also has offices in the UK and Sweden, said a successful complaint with the EC could open to door to compensation claims from the many east European workers who have tried to find work in Gibraltar.

He said some of them had opted to leave after they found that their employment status here was unclear.

Others chose to remain here despite the uncertainty and have found that, despite their newfound rights as EU citizens, they are often working outside the law.

“In the end what happens is, if the complaint comes out fruitful [then] all the people who suffered can start litigation cases against the Gibraltar government for their losses,” he told the Chronicle.

“They could sue the government for loss of time, for air tickets and so on.”


Related Article & Links

Panorama Report on this story:
Gibraltar's migrant laws lead to EU complaint

Broch Corporate Services LLP (BCS)

Brochs Redovisningsbyrå KB

European Court of Justice

European Court of Human Rights

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