The UK’s former Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge (that’s not some special title — Mr and Mrs Judge’s boy simply had a legal career that took him to the House of Lords), has mounted a welcome defence of Parliamentary sovereignty. His target was the European Court of Human Rights, which is of course a separate body from the European Union, but what he says is still extremely relevant to the fight against the EU.
Lord Judge quite rightly points out that the fundamental concept in our constitution is that Parliament is sovereign. It is under no obligation to obey the ECHR, or any other body. After all, if the ultimate authority in this land is not our democratically accountable Parliament, then what we face is power without accountability. This is a problem with the ECHR, but the very same problem lies at the heart of our EU membership too.
The confirmation of this ancient principle will be welcomed by the British people (after all, Parliament’s sovereignty is our sovereignty — we just lend it to the MPs until the next election), but it has not gone down well with the legal bigwigs across the Channel.
The President of the ECHR hit back, saying that if our Parliament defied the ECHR over issues such as voting rights for prisoners, it could see Britain forced out the Council of Europe (the parent body of the ECHR). Judge Spielmann went on to say that, in turn, would make it difficult for the UK to remain in the EU.
In other words: ‘do as you’re told by the ECHR, or you’ll have to leave the EU’. We can only assume that he meant it as a threat, but to more and more people these days, it sounds like an added bonus!
By James Harvard, Campaign Manager