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June 28, 2006

EU What?

The European Commission today proposes sweeping away national veto rights on sensitive areas of EU law making, involving cross-border police and judicial co-operation.

Franco Frattini, the EU commissioner for justice, freedom and security, is expected to urge governments to end the "stalemate" caused by the need to vote unanimously on areas such as Europe-wide investigations, the "hot pursuit" of criminals across frontiers and the rights of foreign criminal suspects.

The EU becoming more involved in criminal law? Without the national veto? It’s actually long been my biggest concern about the entire project, this whole issue of criminal law.

Yes, of course I think the EU shouldn’t exist and if it does that we shouldn’t be members. But why would I be more concerned about law than economics say, or the idea of being ruled by the Frogs (again!)?

Because the criminal legal system is at the very heart of what makes a free country. We have, over a period of some 800 and a few years (I think the actual date of "time immemorial " in the Common Law is actually 1187 although grateful to be corrected if that is wrong.) built a system based upon a combination of precedent and legislation. The end result might not be perfect but all those things that go to make it up, Habeus Corpus, jury trial, etc etc (you know the litany) are part and parcel of what protects us, the citizenry, from them, the State.

Indeed, most of those protections were introduced entirely to protect us from that State: something many forget, that the limitations on evidence and trials are not to protect criminals, but to protect the innocent from being proclaimed criminals for political reasons.

Our continental friends have very different legal systems. Very different indeed. No juries, to start with. So if we are to have EU wide criminal law, clearly there will be harmonisation. And it doesn’t take intelligence of the genius level to see that when the UK and Eire are on one side, with our own distinctive systems, and 23 are on the other, with their, which way the harmonisation is going to go.

Now we are to have this without a national veto, now it will be the result of majority voting. That will be the end of it, one of the two great inventions of these Isles. The English language will survive but the Common Law legal system will not.

It has already happened to a large extent in commecial law (idiocies like laws detailing the legal ingredients of jam...and yes, carrots are indeed, in law, fruit, jam for the purpose of making...are exactly this, the replacement of simple Common Law provisions with the detailed allowances of the Napoleonic Code) and now it looks like it will happen with the criminal law.

We’ve got to leave.

June 28, 2006 in Law | Permalink


Or we could just vote against this proposal.

Posted by: Alex | Jun 28, 2006 10:33:10 AM


Posted by: richard | Jun 28, 2006 1:02:29 PM

Alex writes, "Or we could just vote against this proposal."

And the next similar proposal. And the next after that, which is also similar but they will assure us is is quite different. And the next after that, which comes at a difficult time for the British premier when he wantss EU goodwill over some other issue. And the next after that, which is smuggled in as part CCLXVII of something else entirely. And then maybe there's a referendum, and we do vote against it, and so then there's another referendum - only this time round the opposition are right out of money, volunteers and energy, having spent it all campaigning for the last one; while the EU campaign chest is magically refilled taxpayers' money.

With the EU "Voting against it" is not allowed to be final; voting for it is final. I think we need to leave.

Posted by: Natalie Solent | Jun 28, 2006 1:39:56 PM

"...did by the advice of wicked and evil counsellors, invade the fundamental constitution of this Kingdom and altered it from a legal limited monarchy, to an arbitrary despotic power": and in 1689 that was reason enough to sack a King.

Posted by: dearieme | Jun 28, 2006 5:10:00 PM

Actually, what is required is some country to have the balls to offer a bill of dissolution of the EU. Trying to prove Hayek's view of collectivism, again, on this large a scale is dangerous to the stability of the world long term. A constitutional body that lacks a constitution is , to my mind, a rogue state. The EU should be dissolved and a free trade agreement put in its place.
As far as the legal traditions established in England, the will always inform the systems in America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Your children will carry on the family traditions.

Posted by: B's Freak | Jun 28, 2006 6:53:19 PM

We'll veto it. And most of the new entrants don't trust the French or the Germans so I doubt we'll be outvoted.

I think EU membership has been beneficial to the UK, and withdrawal is for the wingnuts. But hey, if we wanted to withdraw, we could. After all, who could stop us? Any British Govt which gave up the Common Law would lose the next election. And I think it is 1189 -the accession of Richard 1st. But as Patrick Wormald has shown, the Common Law can be traced back to Alfred's time.

Best wishes from a leftist

Posted by: Jeffrey Mushens | Jun 28, 2006 10:20:39 PM

What Natalie said, right up to her last sentence:

"With the EU "Voting against it" is not allowed to be final; voting for it is final. I think we need to leave."

Tim has offered another option: vigorous, pre-announced and total obstruction. Announce beforehand that we will simply turn up for the vote and veto everything until we get our way. It seems to work for the French...

Posted by: The Pedant-General | Jun 29, 2006 10:45:09 AM

"Any British Govt which gave up the Common Law would lose the next election. "

I don't like to rain on your parade, Jeffrey, but I think this is b**l**s.

Look what Blair's already got away with. A few more salami slices and Common Law is history.

Not only will they not vote against him, they won't even notice what he's doing.

And when it's pointed out, they won't care.

Posted by: andrew duffin | Jun 29, 2006 12:29:19 PM

Of course, Tim, the Common Law will survive, but perhaps not in the UK or Ireland.

Posted by: Geoff | Jun 29, 2006 11:49:46 PM