British judge on Britain’s legal relationship with Europe

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The judiciary is often lampooned as being out of touch with public opinion. But on the subject of Europe, Britain’s judges seem to have their finger on the pulse. One of Britain’s most senior judges said the fact foreign courts can overrule British ones, is “little short of offensive”.

Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, the President of the Supreme Court, has spoken about British people’s intense dislike of Britain’s relationship with the European Court of Human Rights.

In a speech to the Cambridge Freshfields Annual Law Lecture 2014, entitled The British and Europe, Lord Neuberger stated:

The idea of courts overruling decisions of the UK parliament, as is substantially the effect of what the Strasbourg and the Luxembourg courts can do, is little short of offensive to our notions of constitutional property.”

Lord Neuberger did err on the side caution and stopped short of openly criticising Britain’s controversial membership of the EU saying:

“These debates are ultimately political, and therefore a judge has to tread very warily when discussing them. So it is right to begin by emphasising that I am not seeking to advocate any particular view on the issues of Britain in Europe.”

Lord Neuberger is the latest British judge who has not shied away from speaking out on laws emanating from Europe. Earlier this month, a Crown Court judge, Mr Justice Bray, labelled the UK’s borders “a leaking sieve”. He commented after sentencing an illegal immigrant Albanian drug dealer, who was deported three times only to find his way back to the UK and go on to reoffend.

If the judiciary keep on singing from the same hymn sheet with the public they serve, they may find themselves being unlikely icons of the anti-EU lobby.

Dominic Kirby
Research Assistant

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