During the celebrations of the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, we would do well to remember Britain’s civil and tolerant nature derives from our own traditions and not those handed down to us by the Eurocrats.
Signed in 1215, the Magna Carta was ground-breaking in its recognition of individual rights. It helped to protect citizens from the arbitrary power of King John, and ensured the law of the land must be followed by all, whether you were the King or a peasant. For centuries, the document symbolised the freedoms inherited across the world. This began the long march towards the liberal democracies we take for granted today.
At present however, the mythmakers who dream of a federal United States of Europe attribute our current liberties to the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).
To be clear – the ECHR which is run through the European Council, is separate from the EU, and began as a reaction to the horrors of the Second World War. Ratified in 1951, Britain was actually one of its founding members.
However, in 1998 the Labour party integrated its laws into the British judicial system through the Human Rights Act, which has essentially placed the authority of Strasbourg judges over the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. In order to restore Britain’s sovereignty, we would have to repeal the Human Rights Act, so the final decision on human rights rests with our own courts.
The ECHR, however benign at its outset, has evolved under the influence of EU federalists. Last month the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius condescendingly said “Britain joined a football club. They can’t now say in the middle of the match that they want to play rugby. It’s one thing or the other”.
Did the British people vote for the right of prisoners to vote, or the inability to deport violent criminals, or foreign courts overriding our own? The answer is no. The judicial powers handed to the Eurocrats are a world away from the Convention we voluntarily ratified in 1966. Instead of the British getting cold feet, perhaps it is the fault of the Europhiles who changed the game.
Such rulings from the ECHR are fundamentally at odds with British Common Law, which evolved from the ‘law of the land’ over generations. The idea of Britain’s civil society breaking down without the validation of European jurists is misguided, another predictable case of pro-EU scaremongering.
Even David Cameron appears to be in two minds about the ECHR. He initially promised to withdraw the Human Rights Act, and his Cabinet remains split on the issue. By and large, the Conservatives want to remain part of the ECHR, but want to withdraw the Human Rights Act (1998) which has entangled European Court laws into domestic British legislation.
If a Member State wanted to remain part of the European project, but rejected the Convention, it would be virtually impossible because of its intricate ties with the Lisbon Treaty. This point is not to denigrate the usefulness of the courts to countries which have suffered under Communism and have poor human rights records. It is claimed scrapping the Human Rights Act, or going further and leaving the ECHR would lead Britain into the dark ages. This is a myth.
The pro-ECHR lobby tend to forget Turkey is a place which imprisons more journalists than China. In addition, homosexuals and ethnic minorities in Russia are by no means treated equally. Both of these nations are part of the 47 Member States signed up to the convention.
Overall 19 countries signed up to the ECHR are not part of the EU – something which is rarely highlighted. Recognising the Convention is a prerequisite to joining the EU shows just how much the Europhiles believe they have a mandate in matters which should be left to nation states. What was intended as a trading bloc, has now extended its arm into our own legislation.
Historians for Britain, independent academics who argue Britain has evolved separately from our Continental neighbours, have highlighted what our own politicians observed across the channel; “social, political and economic upheaval, lawlessness and authoritarian rule, the erosion of individual rights”.
It is certainly telling the constitutional language of the ECHR and the Anglosphere world are entirely different. Inherent in the American Declaration of Independence (1776), whose founders took significant influence from the Magna Carta, is the suspicion that endless laws from the state will not solve everything.
When one observes legislation pouring in from Brussels however, it has been abused to the point that many jokingly refer to the ECHR as a ‘Criminal’s Charter’.
All Britons ask is to recalibrate the balance of power the European Courts have over the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. In addition to endless years of legal wrangling, Strasbourg sees British sovereignty as a thorn in its side and wishes for conformity across the EU. Is it too much to ask for our own courts to have the final say on what affects lives in the United Kingdom? The promise of a European superstate is all too tempting for the federalists.
Since joining the Convention in 1966, Britain has been struck down by the European Court in 76% of appeals. As most of the public are aware, Britain is an influential symbol of democracy, the rule of law and individual rights, long before the implementation of the Human Rights Act 1998.
The UK does not have to completely withdraw from the European Council, but their resolutions should not bind our Supreme Court against their own verdicts. This is only one area where the European superstate has expanded. Such loss of our judicial powers should ring alarm bells.
Eurosceptic MPs have suggested an advisory role within the European Courts which would wholly improve relations. This would mean their European Council’s powers would be non-binding, and our judges would have the final say. Our liberties and traditions have evolved naturally through past generations. The fact Europhiles believe jurists in Strasbourg guarantee our rights reveals their lack of confidence in Britain.
The Magna Carta ensured much of the English Speaking World stayed on the path of liberal democracy, whilst other constitutional arrangements decreed by Kings and dictators easily strayed into extremism. Britons should never forget what they inherit.
This is something put at risk by the myths peddled by the Europhiles. This is why we must Get Britain Out of the EU, and untangle ourselves from this mess.
Chris Muspratt is a researcher for the cross-party grassroots Eurosceptic campaign group Get Britain Out