Locating UK and EU Guidance on Brexit

By Alison Shea

Over the past week, two things happened which inspired me to write this post.  First I read this story on how the Dutch government had set up a website to provide guidance to its citizens on how to prepare for Brexit, and of course I immediately imagined how awesome it would be if the Dutch Brexit monster featured in the story teamed up with Gritty for a buddy comedy.  Second, I read FCIL-SIS Chair Catherine Deane’s column in the FCIL Newsletter asking for people to volunteer to write a blog post for Diplawmatic Dialogues.

As much as I know you were hoping to read my script ideas for the Gritty/Brexit monster buddy comedy, I began wondering if any other countries had created a comprehensive guidance site for its citizens and businesses in advance of Brexit (and especially a no-deal Brexit).  It had previously occurred to me that teaching an EU and/or UK research classes this semester would be very challenging given the timing of Brexit, and I figured the best thing I could recommend to students given this uncertainty would be to look for and follow government guidance documents.

Why recommend government guidance documents?  Because the actual withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU – currently scheduled to occur at 11pm GMT on March 29 – now looks like it will be very abrupt (if it happens at all), it will not be possible to amend all relevant laws to reflect the changes immediately (check out this blog post for a brief overview of the magnitude of changes that need to occur).  Thus, it will be important for anyone with an interest in Brexit to follow the government’s guidance on how to deal with it until the law can catch up.  Not only is the guidance going to be crucial for those living and working in the UK, it will also be extremely important for any country that currently engages with the UK in its (soon to be former?) capacity as a fellow EU member.   Therefore, a list of places to locate government guidance seemed like a good tool to create for librarians and FCIL instructors to have in their toolbox over the coming month(s).

After spending a few days searching and locating guidance information for most of the EU member states, I realized that the EU had already beaten me to creating a list of the relevant government guidance sites.  This was an extremely disappointing discovery, since I had already pitched this as a great blog post to Alyson and Susan and was really proud of my advanced Google (and Google Translate) skills.  However, from all my searching I can at least share my top research tip: because “Brexit” isn’t a real word, it’s a great search term to use in any language!   In the end, Alyson and Susan convinced me that there could still be value in my post, and so I humbly present a (shorter) list of relevant sites for locating government guidance on Brexit.

It should go without saying that this is what I was able to locate as of February 26, 2019; the landscape of Brexit guidance will undoubtedly change the closer we get to “B-day”, and will also change if the UK government takes new action in the interim (the latest update is that a “meaningful vote” will be held by March 12), so stay tuned!*

United Kingdom guidance

European Union guidance

Individual European country guidance

Even non-EU member states are finding it necessary to prepare for Brexit, as these countries interact with the United Kingdom under various bilateral agreements with the European Union and the European Economic Area; see, for example, this recent agreement on arrangements of citizen’s rights for many of these non-EU countries.  Three countries that have especially close ties with the UK are listed here:


*Looking for suggestions on how to “stay tuned” to the ever-changing world of Brexit?  Here are some of my go-to sources for Brexit coverage:

From the Reference Desk: Is There An Annotated European Union Code?

By Amy Flick

“Is there an annotated European Union Code? I have an EU directive, and I need to find some cases that interpret it.”

First, having just taught a class on U.S. statutory legal research, I’m thrilled that a student thought to use an annotated code to find cases interpreting legislation.

There isn’t a European Union code, not exactly. But the European Union does have a classification system for its law, and there are sources for finding cases on a particular EU directive, from the European Court of Justice and from national courts.

The student was looking for cases on Directive 98/44/EC on patents for biotechnological inventions.

Although European Union law isn’t codified, the closest thing to a codification would be the Directory of Legal Acts on EUR-Lex. It arranges EU legislation in force by subject and includes consolidated acts incorporating amendments. Directive 98/44/EC is classified with Intellectual Property legislation at 17.20, but with a general heading at 17 of “Law relating to Undertakings,” I’m not sure I would have found it without already having found the Directory Classification. There is also the EuroVoc thesaurus for browsing legislation (and caselaw) by subject. Either the thesaurus terms or the Directory codes can be used in the EUR-Lex Advanced Search, along with text and other criteria (including type of legislation). In this case, a text search for “biotechnology AND patents” worked just as well.

The student already had the citation for Directive 98/44/EC, but I recommended that he look at the Directorate-General on Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs. The European Commission’s executive agencies are a great source for finding current legislation that they administer, with links to EUR-Lex. The DG’s page on Protection of Biotechnological Inventions includes the Biotech Directive with a summary, reports, and related documents, plus a State of Play of the Implementation of Directive 98/44/EC that has dates and citations for national legislation implementing the directive.

Summaries of EU Legislation on EUR-Lex are also a good way to find legislation by subject, including by general topic or to search. Again, a search for “biotechnology and patents” retrieved the summary for Directive 98/44/EC.

With a directive citation in hand, my student can find cases interpreting the directive. The EUR-Lex Document Information for the directive includes a “Relationship between documents” section that has links to Court of Justice judgments as published in the Official Journal of the European Communities.

The European Court of Justice’s CURIA site has an advanced search page with a field for “references to case law or legislation,” including directives by number. It even allows searching for pinpoint references to paragraphs within the directive.

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Since directives require that EU member states implement them with national legislation, there are also national laws and cases in national courts on the directive.

Once a directive is found in EUR-Lex, the links in the left navigational side bar include “National Transposition.” These National Transpositions by Member State provide the citations to each member state’s implementing laws for the directive. He could also use EUR-Lex’s Advanced Search Form. Choose National Transposition as the collection and search by directive number (1998 and 44).

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For this particular directive, that “State of Play” from the Directorate-General cites national implementing legislation. If a Google search doesn’t retrieve the cited legislation, the student could use the Foreign Law Guide database or the Law Library of Congress’ Guide to Law Online to find sources for national legislation.  There’s also the European Union’s N-Lex gateway to search for national legislation in N-Lex with the directive citation.

Back to looking for cases interpreting the directive, the EUR-Lex advanced search can be used to search national caselaw as well. He could use the same EUR-Lex Advanced Search Form, choose National Case Law as the collection, and enter the directive number in the Instruments Cited field.

The European Union’s Association of the Councils of State and Supreme Administrative Jurisdictions has its own Dec.Nat. database for searching national decisions on European Union law. The search page includes a field for Provision of European Union Law for searching by directive number, or other EU legislation. The results list includes country, date, title of the case, and parties, with case details including a citation to the national law and link to related ECJ judgements.

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So, the European Union doesn’t have annotated code, not is there an “EU Code.” But it does have subject resources for finding legislation. And it offers multiple ways through EUR-Lex and other EU databases to find cases that interpret an EU directive, and national legislation implementing the directive.

And my thanks to Alison Shea for sharing her European Union expertise!

From the Reference Desk: FIRRMA and CFIUS

By Amy Flick

Conversation at the reference desk:

Student: “I heard that you were the librarian who knows everything about international law and that you can help with my journal topic.”

Me: “That’s certainly flattering. What are you thinking of writing about?”

Student: “FIRRMA. It’s a federal act on national security that just passed.”

Me: “FEMA?”

Student: “No, FIRRMA, the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act. It adds to the powers of CFIUS, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.  I know that’s what I want to write about, but I don’t know what issue to focus on.”

Me: “uh, okay….”

Sometimes students ask me for help with journal research where I don’t know much about their proposed topic, or, sometimes, anything about their proposed topic. So, I have to do some quick reading to get up to speed.

For FIRRMA, and CFIUS, I started with Google. The Department of the Treasury has a helpful page of background information on CFIUS and FIRRMA. From that: “CFIUS is an interagency committee authorized to review certain transactions involving foreign investment in the United States (“covered transactions”), in order to determine the effect of such transactions on the national security of the United States.” And, “[t]he Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act of 2018 (FIRRMA) expands the jurisdiction of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to address growing national security concerns over foreign exploitation of certain investment structures which traditionally have fallen outside of CFIUS jurisdiction.” (Whew!)

The student wants to find issues or questions with FIRRMA to explore in his comment. I see three avenues for finding recent sources that might raise questions about FIRRMA: international investment law, national security law, and legislative history sources.

We have a subscription to Transnational Dispute Management, which is an online journal covering the subjects of international arbitration and international investment law. A search for “CFIUS” retrieves a 2018 article republishing a 2016 OECD Working Paper on “Investment Policies Related to National Security – A Survey of Country Practices.” It does not cover FIRRMA, but it discusses national security issues in international investment law and might be helpful for comparing the U.S. approach with those of other countries.

I like BNA Reports for journal and seminar students looking for current issues to write about, and BNA’s International Trade Reporter has news from recent months on CFIUS reform. A broader search on Bloomberg Law for “FIRRMA” retrieves some recent news articles as well. I tried a search in Business Source Complete for 2018 news articles on FIRRMA, and the International Financial Law Review had several short articles with “key takeaways.”

For national security news, the two important blogs are Just Security and Lawfare. Just Security has a March podcast titled “Beware the Ides of CFIUS!” It’s focusing on “the CFIUS process putting a spike in Broadcom’s attempted acquisition of Qualcomm on national security grounds,” but the summary promised that it would “provide more history than you could possibly want regarding the CFIUS process.” Lawfare has a tag for finding its posts about CFIUS, and it has several 2018 posts on FIRRMA, including from August 2, 2018, “The Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act of 2018,” including a section on “what’s missing.”

For new legislation, I wanted to see what was in the congressional and legislative history sources. There is a July 2018 CRS Insights summarizing FIRRMA, Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA). There is also a longer CRS Report from July, The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS)  with sections on national security concerns. Looking at legislative history documents, I found  S. Hrg. 115-160, a hearing of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs on CFIUS reform with questions and issues raised about CFIUS and national security.

So, my takeaways:

  • When confronted with topics that you know nothing about, a Google search isn’t a bad start. With a few minutes to spare, get up to speed on federal legislation with CRS Reports.
  • For students needing to turn a general subject into an issue to write about, go to current awareness sources: authoritative blogs, financial and legal news, BNA Reports.
  • If it’s federal legislation, look at hearings for questions raised about the bill during the legislative process.


From the Reference Desk: Researching African Health Laws

By Amy Flick

550px-Africa_(orthographic_projection).svgOur summers at Emory start with numerous requests to help faculty and their research assistants get started with large summer projects. I had a request from a professor in May to help her research assistant find legislation on the public health systems, and information on the ministries of public health, for several African countries: Ethiopia, Liberia, Guinea, Madagascar, Mozambique, and Nigeria.

I have fielded several requests for Nigerian law in the last few years – and I thank Yemisi Dina for her help with the first of these – and I included Nigeria as an option for students for the final project in my Foreign and Comparative Legal Research class. So I started with some sources for Nigerian legislation, including some found by my students that I didn’t know of before my class. Resources for the other countries in the faculty request were less familiar.

I started with making a list of resources to investigate:

  • The Foreign Law Guide database, since it has subject headings including Health. It had citations for public health laws for all the countries on my list, but the only working legislative link was for Nigeria.
  • Law Library of Congress Guide to Law Online, with links to Parliaments and Official Gazettes. This added sources to my list for Madagascar’s laws (on the National Assembly website, in French) and to Mozambique’s legislation listed by “sectores” (on the government portal, in Portuguese).
  • GlobaLex Research Guides added sources for legislation to my list for Liberia and Ethiopia, as well as some ministries and government portals. I also checked Julienne Grant’s Research Guide on Global Health Law for more sources to try.
  • Global Legal Monitor from the Law Library of Congress, to look for recent news under their Health topic. I did find a 2017 story about a 2017 Liberian bill, as well as the 2014 Nigerian National Health Law.
  • Also on my list, but not helpful for this particular project: ILO NATLEX (includes laws on Occupational Safety and Health), FAOLEX (laws on Food and Nutrition), and Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals (which did have some articles on the Nigerian 2014 law).
  • Google, which I used to fill in the health ministry websites that I hadn’t found through the Guide to Law Online or GlobaLex. Mozambique’s Ministry of Health turned out to be an additional source for their health laws and regulations.

But what you really want is the sources for those countries’ legislation for when you get similar requests. So, here’s my list:

As I have found with other projects dealing with the law of other countries, it took multiple portals and research guides to find the legislation I was looking for, as well as multiple websites compiling laws for some countries. I found a lot of dead links along the way, and many collections were not current. And for some countries, I could not find public health laws at all. Google Translate helped for navigating sites, but for reviewing the documents themselves, I needed a few phrases to look for in French and Portuguese. Final lessons: 1) do not expect foreign law to be readily available or easy to find, 2) do not expect foreign law to be readily available or easy to find in English, and 3) assign students projects that might come in handy for my own work on faculty requests!

From the Reference Desk: Researching Global Mental Health Law

By Lora Johns

This May for Mental Health Awareness Week, the U.K. charity Mind released a survey of 44,000 employees on attitudes toward mental health at work. Most strikingly, it shows that U.K. employees who experience poor mental still feel uncomfortable expressing their needs to their employers—indicating that the stigma against mental illness is alive and well in the workplace.


Image via swindontowncentre.co.uk.

For instance, only half of employees would tell their employers about their mental health struggles, and over 80% would still go into work when experiencing poor mental health (in contrast to the 50% who would go to work with a physical illness).

These alarming statistics do not plague the U.K. alone. People suffering from mental health experience stigma both public and internal. According to a World Health Organization study, depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. It contributes heavily to the overall global burden of disease.

Within the last decade, anti-stigma initiatives have begun to appear across geographic boundaries, reflecting a growing international interest in mental health in the workplace. Globally, governments and private organizations have increasingly promoted mental health and pushed to reform public health policy, legislation, and regulations.

In short, now is a great time to explore how to research global mental health policy.

Julienne E. Grant’s newly updated GlobaLex Research Guide on Global Health Law is an invaluable resource for this kind of research. It encompasses not only traditional international health law–the rules governing international relations–but also the actions of non-state actors, individual nations, and international regimes that intersect with health policy. It is the perfect gateway to anyone researching global health law in the context of human rights, international trade, and intellectual property.


Other Resources:

WHO Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020

International Academy of Law and Mental Health (IALMH)


See more resources at mhfaengland.org.

From the Reference Desk: When Librarians Google

By Lora Johns

Google.pngToday’s post is a reminder that sometimes, even for information professionals, Google really is the answer.

A patron forwarded a Google Alert to the library that linked to an article on India Today. The article reported a ruling from one of India’s High Courts holding that solitary confinement, even for death row prisoners, amounted to torture and violated basic human rights. It runs afoul of the U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the “Nelson Mandela Rules”) and the Constitution of India.

The patron wanted to read the ruling itself. Easy! I thought to myself. I can find that. While I am far from an expert in the law of India, I knew from GlobaLex that Judis would surely contain the ruling I wanted. Off I went to the High Court website and searched by Court and date of judgment.

No dice. What the heck?

Here’s what I knew from the news article:

  • The article about the ruling was published April 27
  • The issuing court was the Uttarakhandi High Court
  • The petitioners were two men sentenced to capital punishment and solitary confinement
  • The justices who wrote the opinion were Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Alok Sing

I tried searching by justice (both names), multiple dates (just in case the article was off)… and still, I found nothing.

Sensing that the task may require an expert rather than a neophyte, I consulted my colleague John Nann, who literally wrote the book on legal research and is more adept at finding obscure Commonwealth case law than any other human being alive. Half an hour later, like magic, the ruling materialized in my inbox and the patron’s.

Rather awed, I asked John how he executed this feat of librarianship, when even the official court website was useless. I felt a tiny bit less self-critical once he said he’d followed the same research path that I had, without luck — except that he had additionally consulted SCC Online, “India’s premier legal database,” which also had no trace of the ruling.

So John — the consummate reference librarian par excellence — turned to Google. Pulling key terms from the India Today article, John added a twist that, in its simplicity, betrayed sheer genius. He added the word “judgment” to the Google search.

When I recreated his research trail (partly because I wanted to read the judgment, partly to practice being a better reference librarian for next time), Google immediately gave me another news article, published on LiveLaw.in. Its headline proclaimed, Solitary Confinement of a Death Convict Before the Exhaustion of His Complete Legal and Constitutional Remedies Unconstitutional: Uttarakhand HC [Read Judgment].

Published two days after the judgment issued, the article had embedded a PDF of the court’s judgment at the end. Success at last!

What are the takeaways of this story?

  • Sometimes, the “right,” librarian-y methods are not necessarily the best or fastest path to an answer. I would have saved time if I’d tried Googling first. In fairness to me and John starting with more specific sources, it’s still a mystery why both the High Court website and the paid database both lacked this important judgment.
  • Google pays software engineers full-time salaries to design the best and brightest search algorithms. There is no shame in using them. (With the caveat, of course, that we must acknowledge that algorithms are as prone to bias as any human.)
  • I have brilliant, patient, and kind colleagues who invite me to reach out to them for help and generously lend me a hand when I need it. Especially as a baby librarian, I am grateful for the mentorship and guidance, and I hope to pay it back someday when I’m older and wiser.
  • I will be bookmarking in and following Apoorva Mandhani, the reporter who wrote the story, on Twitter to keep up-to-date with developments in Indian courts. Who knows when it may come in handy?

From the Reference Desk: “Can You Strip Mine An Asteroid?”

By Lora Johns

“Can you strip mine an asteroid?”

Last week at my law school, a room full of law students (and at least two law librarians) pondered this question, posed—rhetorically—by a NASA attorney.

It turns out that NASA needs a lot of different kinds of lawyers. Some do the kinds of law you’d expect of a federal agency—government contracts, employment law, administrative law. Some do intellectual property, which makes sense when you think of how many inventions come out of NASA.

And some practice international space law.

(Incidentally, I may need to reevaluate my career choices.)

It’s not just science fiction. Space law is very real—and it’s more relevant than ever. No doubt you’ve heard about SpaceX’s unprecedented successful launch of a Tesla Roadster into orbit. But space law as a field goes back much further. It began in October 1957, when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world’s first ever man-made satellite, into orbit. This astonishing feat accelerated the Space Race—and raised international concerns over the peaceful use of outer space.

Two years after Sputnik, the United Nations created the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. COPUOS helped create the five major treaties that still govern space law today:

  • The 1967 Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (the “Outer Space Treaty“).
  • The 1968 Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space (the “Rescue Agreement“).
  • The 1972 Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects (the “Liability Convention“).
  • The 1975 Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space (the “Registration Convention“).
  • The 1979 Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (the “Moon Treaty“).

The history of space law is too rich and fascinating to be covered in one short blog post. But to address the titular question—whether it’s okay to exploit an asteroid’s natural resources—the answer is… maybe. In 2015, the U.S. Congress passed the first law for space mining, the Commercial Space Law Competitiveness Act. But that domestic law arguably conflicts with the Moon Treaty, which attempts to declare the Moon and other celestial bodies the “common heritage of humankind” not subject to ownership. (The U.S.—like every other major spacefaring nation—is not a party to the agreement.) And the Outer Space Treaty contains a “non-appropriation principle.” On the other hand, some countries don’t like the idea that you can’t own space—take the Bogotá Declaration of 1967 for example. In that Declaration, a coalition of equatorial nations attempted to resist the non-appropriation principle, claiming sovereignty over the geostationary orbital slots above their territories under a version of the traditional ad coelum doctrine of property law.

Complicated, right? Nations disagree on the fundamental principles of using and exploring the universe, and the law—like outer space—is far from settled.

As it turns out, foreign and international librarians can learn a lot from looking up to the sky once in a while. Here are some helpful resources to get you started: