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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Why the Tories are living on fantasy island over the ECJ

When I first got involved in politics the Tories used to claim that they stood for the rule of law. Now, through the machinations of Brexit, it is becoming much clearer that the only law they are interested in is the narrow, paternalistic, inward-looking law of a little Englander.

This article in the Observer sums up the inconsistencies and selfishness of Tory thinking, which will leave the UK isolated economically, legally and politically. It is a shame that the so-called Labour opposition is acting to reinforce this sterile viewpoint instead of actively opposing it.

The paper says that the former head of the government’s legal services has ridiculed the prime minister’s claim that the UK can break free of all European laws while continuing to reap the economic benefits of the EU’s single market.

Sir Paul Jenkins, who was the government’s most senior legal official for eight years until 2014, insists that if the UK wants to retain close links with the single market and customs union it will have no option but to observe EU law “in all but name”.

Sir Paul is backed by several other leading experts on EU law. Their expert view casts serious doubt on the central plank of the government’s latest thinking on Brexit:

This week more papers will be released, including one spelling out how legal disputes could be resolved between the UK and EU once the European court of justice (ECJ) no longer has direct jurisdiction in the UK. Leaving the ECJ has been one of the totemic aims of Eurosceptics and any government U-turn on the issue would provoke an outcry among Tory Brexiters. May has repeatedly said that the UK will break free of the ECJ and leave its jurisdiction on the day of Brexit.

UK and EU legal experts are becoming increasingly vocal in asserting that the prime minister’s policy is unrealistic and impossible to achieve. Jenkins, now employed by barristers Matrix Chambers, said: “If the UK is to be part of something close enough to a customs union or the single market to remove the need for hard borders, it will only work if the rules are identical to the EU’s own internal rules.

“Not only must they be the same but there must be consistent policing of those rules. If Theresa May’s red line means we cannot be tied to the ECJ, the Brexit treaty will need to provide a parallel policing system.

“That may be a new court but, in reality, any new court will have to follow what the ECJ says about the EU’s own rules, otherwise the new system won’t work. So, never mind Theresa May’s foolish red line; we will have the ECJ in all but name.”

The other downside of The government’s insistence that the UK must leave the jurisdiction of the ECJ after Brexit could be that Northern Ireland will lose tens of millions of pounds in funding for its peace and reconciliation programmes:

Open Britain, which campaigns against a hard Brexit, claims that unless the government gives ground, the EU’s Peace programme – which under its fourth round of funding covering the period 2014 to 2020 is set to receive a total of £208m from the European regional development fund – is in jeopardy. The programme, which aims to boost “cohesion between communities involved in the conflict in Northern Ireland” and “economic and social stability”, applies to Northern Ireland and the six border counties of the Republic.

And yet it appears that the Tories do not care about this or any other consequence of their hard Brexit policy.
the EU’s Peace programme – which under its fourth round of funding covering the period 2014 to 2020 is set to receive a total of £208m from the European regional development fund – is in jeopardy.
Does this money count against the UK's "rebate"?
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