Fears of EU Law

From the July 2000 Trumpet Print Edition

“Britain’s leaders’ fears that a charter of fundamental rights being drawn up by the European Union is turning into a federal constitution that could undermine Britain’s sovereignty and flexible labor market were played down by the government yesterday” (Financial Times, May 27).

This statement demonstrates an ongoing and intensifying debate in Britain over fears that Britain’s cherished sovereignty and respected parliamentary system are gradually being eroded through its EU membership as the balance of legislative power is increasingly tipped in Brussels’ favor.

“British officials said Mr. Blair had asked for a progress report on the charter to be put on the agenda [at an upcoming summit at Feira, Portugal] in order to ‘inject a bit of realism’ into the work of the drafting convention. His intervention reflects fears that the body is straying from its original remit as a summary of the rights currently available in member states and is drawing up instead what amounts to a manifesto of policy aspirations that would rival the European Convention on Human Rights” (Scotsman, June 9).

There is reason for concern. Already in several instances British law has been superseded by the rule of the European “big brother.” For example, Euro-MPs recently approved a new code that will force European employers to prove their innocence in court when accused of racial discrimination. This will reverse the burden of proof in cases related to the workplace and education, thus eroding a fundamental principle of British law that maintains that defendants are innocent until proven guilty.

British common law is founded on the basic principle that everything is permitted unless it is specifically forbidden. European Roman law, on the other hand, assumes that individual freedoms and rights are best protected by codification; in other words, everything is forbidden except that which is made legal through legislation.

To what point will the British government and its citizens allow their laws to be written by EU politicians whose judgments are based on a different set of values? Perhaps, as author Adrian Hilton has stated, “It depends to what extent the citizens of the United Kingdom wish to retain their common law rights, in essence. It is going to become more evident when people realize that Magna Carta has been ditched, and people’s rights to trial by jury have been eroded essentially under the corpus jurus proposals of the European courts, Commission and Parliament.”