The UK opted-out of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). Does this mean that this element of the EU is discretionary?

If so, why might a member state subscribe to it?

If not, does the CEAS impose constraints over and above existing international obligations, or is it simply a re-statement of those?


The UK, Ireland and Denmark (around the time of the Treaty of Amsterdam and the creation of Schengen) negotiated opt outs from EU law in the areas of freedom, security and justice. As such, any provision in such areas created by an EU directive is optional for them.

Based on the information available (see page 19) it appears Denmark has opted out of every relevant treaty provision, whereas the UK and Ireland have chosen to implement many of the provisions of the CEAS on their own. No other member state has such an opt out, and it would be up to any new applicant state to negotiate one if it wanted one.

The CEAS attempts to coordinate and unify the EU policy on asylum seekers. This is both necessary in a system with open internal borders, and imposes significant theoretical responsibilities on countries, above those in general international law, since the relevant international law is extremely ambiguous.

  • Thank you. And the responsibilities imposed by the CEAS are binding upon member states to implement (with the exception of UK, Ireland and Denmark, per your answer)?
    – 52d6c6af
    Oct 30 '18 at 13:12
  • 1
    The CEAS was created by a mixture of primary EU law (mostly the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and the Treaty on European Union) and secondary regulations. The primary legislation became binding when it was ratified/ when the member states passed their own versions, the regulations became law automatically. See Part II of the document in my second link for an exhaustive discussion.
    – origimbo
    Oct 30 '18 at 13:35
  • Outstanding answer!
    – 52d6c6af
    Oct 30 '18 at 13:40

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