Friday, October 05, 2007

Not as Red as People Think?

ECJ - Old Tricks?
One of Gordon's red lines that is.

I've been mulling over this piece from the EU Observer on and off all day.

Fundamentally it pertains to Brown's supposed red-line over judicial cooperation in criminal matters:
Britain won a concession in that the European Court of Justice will not have jurisdiction over EU legislation in the field of police cooperation and judicial cooperation in criminal matters for five years - but only for EU legislation agreed before the treaty comes into force, something expected in 2009.


However, the protocol also suggests that if the UK wants to extend the exclusion of the court for longer than the five years then it will be excluded from the legislation in this area that was in place before 2009.

Source: EU Observer

Now I don't claim for a minute to fully understand the implications of this, which is hardly surprising as this the whole point of the revamped constitution, but I don't like the sound of it.

I don't like it, not as a kneejerk reaction to all things EU, but surely if the mechanisms by which we will be governed that we might well have dumped upon us by Brown is right in 2009, it should also be right in 2019; five year windows seem just like a nice excuse for the old "we told you this when we signed the treaty, it was always going to be like this, no point complaining now" strategy.

Sunset clauses are fine, even a good idea, for normal legislation, but constitutional arrangements permanence and enduring principals are essential.

I suspect what the issue here is the worry that the ECJ will use its increasingly bizarre leaps of logic to bypass the opt-outs that have been secured, often simply by declaring that it is illogical to deny powers to the EU in area 'X' where they already have control of seemingly unrelated area 'Y'.

Brown would obviously take an enormous kicking if the ECJ showed one of his red lines proved to be worthless almost before the ink was dry on the treaty. Five years down the line with the provision not renewed? The electorate forget easily and it's just another issue where, shock horror, the government were conned by Brussels; shrug of the shoulders, "well if it could happen to Thatcher it could happen to anyone".

It is either right that that the ECJ has jurisdiction in these areas, or it is not right. The passing of five years, conveniently the maximum lifespan of a UK Parliament, should change nothing.

The article goes on to conclude that "In general, the provisional rules would make it harder to opt out of the laws in the first place", and this, in of itself cannot be good news, when you look at how hard it was to neutralise the ridiculous 'Swastika Ban' legislation.

I've never understood the mad rush to harmonise judicial procedures or criminal law anyway. We've lived quite happily in a union of states with different criminal law and different judicial systems since at least 1707. Scotland has differences from England's criminal law up to and including the treatment of various types of homicide; it's juries are different sizes and can return different verdicts. How many terrorists have gone unpunished because of this? When ever have the public clamoured for the simplicity of uniformity?

That said, the image of a British jury acquitting a defendant, simply because counsel for the defence revealed that the offence of which they were charged was not wanted by Westminster and was forced upon us by a cock-up in a morally illegitimate, unwanted treaty is quite appealing. The impotence of the EU machinery in face of a long-ignored people would we wonderful to behold.

Europhiles should be careful what they wish for.

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