By Hilary White

LONDON, November 25, 2009 ( – British courts and the British government cannot be forced to change their regulations on discrimination in employment, “unless and until” ordered to do so by the European Union's Court of Justice, says Neil Addison, a barrister and author of a textbook on anti-discrimination law.  This means, said Addison, that the UK is “fully entitled” to ignore the order issued last week by the European Commission demanding that the British government eliminate all protections for religious groups with regards to ”sexual orientation” regulations.

Vladimir Spidla, the EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, issued the “reasoned opinion” last week in which he said that the British government had “incorrectly” implemented the EU's anti-discrimination directive. Spidla effectively ordered the government to expunge exemptions for religious groups with regards to hiring homosexuals. He wrote, “We call on the UK government to make the necessary changes to its anti-discrimination legislation as soon as possible so as to fully comply with the EU rules.”

In an email to, Addison said that the key question about the “reasoned opinion” is whether the UK is legally obliged to follow these instructions as was widely claimed in the British press.

In response he pointed to a 2004 ruling by the British High Court, in a case between a number of British unions and a coalition of Christian groups, that said the EU's directive on discrimination had been correctly implemented in the British Employment Regulations. Addison said that since no homosexualist activist or group has appealed this 2004 ruling either to the EU's Court of Justice or to the UK Supreme Court, that “this decision by the High Court represents the legal position.”

“In a society governed by the rule of law the courts decide what the law is and a legal opinion, however 'reasoned' it may be, cannot overrule or take precedence over a decision by a court,” he said.

Addison confirmed, however, what many pro-life advocates had warned about the effect of ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, that no matter what laws are passed by individual member states of the EU, or what their own courts decide, Lisbon gives the European Court of Justice the power to overrule them.

The British Government, he said, “is fully entitled” to ignore the order of the European Commission, but only “unless and until the European Court of Justice itself gives a judgement on the issue.”

“I would go further and state that the British government is legally and morally obliged to ignore the European Commission view where that view, as in this case, is in conflict with a decision of the High Court.”

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