Editing a Handbook on European Union Tort Law – Brexit, Language and Deadlines

October 2017 marked the publication of the Edward Elgar Research Handbook on EU Tort Law.  This is part of the series of Research Handbooks in European Law published by leading Law publishing house, Edward Elgar, which offer authoritative reference points for academics, students, and practitioners studying or working in EU law, private law and comparative law. The aim is to be comprehensive and informative, but also accessible for those approaching the subject for the first time.

I agreed to edit (and, indeed, contribute to) the EE Research Handbook on EU Tort Law due to my interest in this area of law as a result of research undertaken in writing my monograph, The Europeanisation of English Tort Law (Hart Publishing, 2014).  In examining the influence of EU law on substantive rules of tort law, it became apparent to me that I could easily drift into other areas of law, notably competition law, but that other areas such as insurance law merited further investigation.  When approached later by Edward Elgar with this project, the opportunity arose to explore these ideas further, but, as editor, with the added expertise of specialist lawyers in these fields.  I also wanted to go beyond “English tort law” to gain a broader perspective and so it was vital to attract academics outside the UK to consider the impact of EU law on national legal systems beyond the common law. The Handbook has contributions from 18 authors ranging from Glasgow to Budapest and including academics working in the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Hungary. The authors are experts in their fields and provide research-led analysis of the different ways in which EU law has created tort law remedies in areas as diverse as: the non-contractual liability of the EU (Gutman), State liability for breach of EU law (Granger), product liability (White), competition law (Odudu and Sanchez Graells), data protection law (Stauch), employment law (Mulder), insurance law (Davey), financial services law (Stanton) and the law relating to unfair commercial practices (Riefa and Saintier). Further contributions examine what we mean by compensatory remedies in EU law (Leczykiewicz), whether we can identify a culture of EU tort law (Niglia and Knetsch) and the possibility of harmonising European tort law more generally (Martin-Casals, Blackie and Faure).  In my chapters, I examine what we mean by “EU tort law” and, finally, the future of EU tort law, both as a substantive area of law and as a concept in need of clarification and further academic debate.

Reflecting on my editorial experience, three main issues come to mind.  The first was, inevitably, Brexit. The Research Handbook was written between 2016-2017, that is, during a period of time in which the UK voted to leave the EU.  I received an email on 24 June 2016 from a contributor asking if the book was still going to happen (it may be recalled that Nigel Farrage had already suggested by this stage that there should be a national public holiday on 23 June to mark the Brexit vote). The answer was an emphatic yes – EU Tort Law could survive Brexitbut it also led to reflection how the Research Handbook would be received by a UK audience. Thankfully the slow pace of Brexit negotiations means that EU law will certainly survive for the first few years of the book’s life, but the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, with its idea of ‘cherry-picking’ the EU law we wish to retain, means that identifying and critically appraising EU law in the UK legal system(s) becomes all the more important, particularly where, as here, it serves to give citizens rights to sue, usually for compensation, as a result of EU-sourced law.

The second issue was one of language. I was fortunate in that all my contributors spoke excellent English and so I was able to combine internationalisation with a high standard of critical analysis.  Perhaps surprisingly the main issue arrived at proof stage when one of the copy editors wanted to add translations to all the ‘foreign’ words in the text.  As an editor, my concern was primarily one of style – it would look rather ‘clunky’ – but for some contributors, this raised more important questions relating to language.  Can you translate all legal terms into English?  Why should we, provided their meaning was easily understandable? Should the names of courts, for example, be given in their native language or that of English?  We agreed a compromise – allowing authors to use what they regarded as the most appropriate terminology, but that any long passages of text would be translated into English.

The final issue was one which affects any project of this kind – deadlines.  The difficulty is one of creating a team ethos with a large number of contributors, where the main means of communication is by email. What happens, therefore, when an email is not answered or a variety of ‘out of office’ messages follow?  Or the publisher decides to send you proofs in August when most sensible people are on holiday?  Again I was fortunate in having a great team of committed academics who did read proofs in August (!) and were responsive to emails and, importantly, kept in touch and communicated any difficulties which arose. As a result, we have a very happy publisher and a volume which is delivered at a very exciting time in the development of EU law.

The Research Handbook offers the reader a critical appreciation of the operation of EU tort law across a range of disciplines. It is to be hoped that this book will provide a valuable resource enabling readers to understand the conceptual basis for EU tort law and its many-varied identities across private law.

For further information, see http://www.e-elgar.com/shop/research-handbook-on-eu-tort-law.  For the electronic version see https://www.elgaronline.com/view/9781785365713.xml – with chapter one free to access!


Professor Paula Giliker

Professor of Comparative Law, University of Bristol

Former President of the British Association of Comparative Law

(paula.giliker (at) bristol.ac.uk)

(Suggested citation: P. Giliker, “Editing a Handbook on European Union Tort Law –Brexit, Language and Deadlines”, available at https://british-association-comparative-law.org/2017/10/31/editing-a-handbook-on-european-union-tort-law-brexit-language-and-deadlines)