EU Legal action against UK is just political theatre

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James Faulkner

As the Remoaner establishment contorts with outrage that the UK is in breach of international law and can no longer be trusted, the European Union is preparing legal proceedings against the United Kingdom. The Great British public should see this for what it really is: a cynical and farcical piece of political theatre.

We were warned there would be consequences if we broke our ‘international obligations’. Ex-Prime Ministers – all of them Remainers, mind you – were practically queuing up to persuade the Government against its Internal Market Bill. And now the EU is preparing to sue the UK on the grounds that its action constitutes a breach of the “good faith” provisions in last year’s treaty.

“This draft bill is by its very nature a breach of the obligation of good faith laid down in the withdrawal agreement, moreover, if adopted as is, it will be in full contradiction to the protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Apparently, Britain has one month to send its observations before Brussels escalates the process. Failure to comply could result in the UK being hauled before… you guessed it… the European Court of Justice.

Even Remainers could afford themselves a wry smile at the notion of a putatively sovereign state being tried in the court of a foreign power. But it goes to the heart of one of the EU’s fundamental preconceptions regarding Brexit, which is its utter failure to either understand or, more likely, to accept that when we leaved the EU, we left as a sovereign nation. In the words of Lord David Frost, “we achieve full independence”. And yes, that includes taking back control of our own internal laws.

But setting that aside, what about the legal grounds for the EU’s pending action? Well, according to Commercial Chancery barrister Steven Barrett, it doesn’t look all that good for the EU.

“It is unfortunate for the EU that a consensus has emerged amongst lawyers that the EU has no grounds for suing the UK; it has no case,” writes Barrett in the Spectator. “The reason the EU has no case is itself relatively simple — they’ve acted too soon. The issue at hand is the Internal Market Bill. An Act is law; a Bill is a proposed law. Until a Bill is an Act, it’s nothing.”

There is a common misconception that international law is more important or complex than domestic law when in fact the reverse is true. International law has to regulate the relations of many disparate nations and is therefore simpler than domestic law, which has to regulate the complex interactions of citizens. As such, “there is no principle of an action that is an anticipatory breach.” Continues Barrett. “You can’t break international law by declaring you may break it in future (our laws are more strict) because such a principle would be unworkable in trying to govern 193 cultures (and whatever the EU is). You only break international law if and when you break it.”

Perhaps the EU calculated that if it could kick up enough fuss the Remoaner establishment would come to the rescue and hamstring the Government just like it did during Theresa May’s premiership and the early days of Johnson’s. But this parliament is an altogether different breed: they were elected on the basis of getting Brexit done – and they won’t roll over so easily. The Internal Market Bill passed its third reading last week with a comfortable majority of 77 votes.

There are only two ways this entire charade is going to end: either the UK leaves as an independent sovereign nation with a free trade agreement with the EU; or the UK leaves as an independent sovereign nation and WTO terms apply. If the latter scenario were to come to pass, the EU would simply have cut off its nose to spite its face. At a time of heightened economic uncertainty, I’m not so sure EU citizens would be very impressed.

STOP PRESS: According to EU diplomats, Brussels is preparing to negotiate until as late as mid-November to avoid a no-deal scenario. The two sides are said to be closer to an agreement on reciprocal social security rights for their citizens after Brexit, with one diplomat describing talks last week on an elusive trade deal as “one of the most positive so far”, according to Reuters.

Perhaps common sense will prevail after all…

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