The European Union and the New British Constitution (2013), by Sean Gabb

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 On Monday the 8th April 2013, Sean Gabb, Director of the Libertarian Alliance, spoke at a meeting of the other Libertarian Alliance on the subject "The European Union and the New British Constitution. Here is a brief summary of what he said:

I have never accepted that membership of the EU is an attack by weasily foreigners on our free institutions, and that leaving it would give us a reasonably accountable government with low taxes and the common law. The truth appears to be that we are utterly corrupt as a nation, and British membership is more a symptom of what we have become than its cause. I don’t see the hand of Europe in the transformation of the police into cowardly thugs, or the universal degradation of our politics and culture. Even very bad things like the European Arrest Warrant are not applied in other European Union countries with the same wooden stupidity as in Britain. In Germany, for instance, it is still not legal for citizens or even residents to be extradited for trial elsewhere.

The main disadvantage of being in the European Union is that it enables our own ruling class to govern by decree. British ministers and civil servants push for certain things behind closed doors in Brussels, and then tell us, when we complain about the resulting laws rammed through Parliament, that is it all the fault of those beastly Europeans. As a prime example of this, see the history of the rise and progress of the money laundering laws.

Of course, this is to be deplored, and a decent government – assuming we ever get one – would leave at once: its rules would prevent or delay policies of radical reform. Until that day comes, however, British membership gives us certain offsetting advantages. These are:

1. Oppression has to be co-ordinated between several dozen governments, not all of them run by certifiable lunatics. See, for example, the block so far on minimum pricing for alcohol. Or see the compelled harmonisation of our porn laws with those of more sensible countries. Without that brake on action, I have little doubt we would by now have bar codes tattooed on our foreheads and on the spot castration for suspected child molesters.

2. The supremacy of European Union law, and our associated importation of the European Convention on Human Rights into our domestic law, have empowered our courts to stage a slow-motion coup against the absolute legislative sovereignty of Parliament. This was just about acceptable when the country was run by a committee of hereditary landlords. It became an unmitigated evil once Parliament was filled up with scoundrels. I was one of the very few people on the right to welcome the judgment in Thoburn v Sunderland City Council. I thoroughly approve of the transformation of judicial review from a yapping at Parliament’s heels into an increasingly powerful weapon of control over legislation. It would be nice to go back to something like the 18th century constitution. Since that is not possible, the new constitution emerging round us is an improvement on what we had until recently.