That applies to other supranational legal constructs, too. Today, this newspaper reveals that the Government is planning to introduce legislation that may have the effect of overriding aspects of the European Convention on Human Rights. The ECHR is separate from the EU. But just as the European Union morphed from a trading zone into a federalist project with imperial pretensions, the European Court of Human Rights has developed legal doctrines that go well beyond the original Convention text. On matters ranging from the ability of illegal immigrants and foreign criminals to block their deportation on human rights grounds, to the appalling treatment of British soldiers who have been harassed through the courts by lawyers, we have seen time and again the application of human rights law with results that are, by any normal standard, unjust.
We are a mature democracy, with one of the most ancient traditions of protecting individual rights in the world. We do not need European judges – whether they are in Strasbourg or Luxembourg – telling us how to run our affairs. Nor, for that matter, do we need overmighty judicial activists making law by the back door in the UK, which is why the Government’s wider interest in reforming matters such as judicial review is welcome. One of the prizes of independence ought to be a more democratic nation, freed from unaccountable power.
If achieving that independence entails upsetting some vested interests, so be it. Ministers could doubtless do a better job at explaining the rationale behind their actions and pointing out the hypocrisy of the European side. But MPs must not tie the Government’s hands now, just when the prize is becoming clear.