The following briefing paper was launched by the campaign group, Better Off Out, on St George’s Day and explains well what our continued membership of the EU would mean for England.
In 1973, Britain joined what was then the European Economic community, before reaffirming its commitment in a 1975 referendum that explicitly described the community as “The Common Market”.
At the height of the Cold War, when Britain’s economy was stagnating and the country was becoming renowned as the ‘Sick Man of Europe’, it was sold as a purely economic arrangement between nine Western European nations. At our moment of entry in 1973, the contemporary Prime Minister was unequivocal: “There are some in this country who fear that in going into Europe we shall in some way sacrifice independence and sovereignty. These fears, I need hardly say, are completely unjustified.” – Ted Heath, television broadcast, January 1973
At first, we were enthusiastic members of the club, with even Margaret Thatcher – who signed us up to the Single European act, which promoted a combined European foreign policy and gave more power to the European Parliament initially in favour of membership. Since Black Wednesday in 1992, however, our relationship has been grudging at best, with the UK forced to withdraw from the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM), before deciding not to join the disastrous single currency project (despite Tony Blair’s best efforts). Forty-one years on from our first referendum, it is clear that this is no longer solely about economics (if it ever had been), with most of our laws made in Brussels, membership costs running to the tens of billions per year, and plans afoot for an EU army – very little of which the British people want any part.
The Conservatives’ surprise general election win in 2015 meant that the referendum – a key manifesto commitment – would become a reality. It was announced by the Prime Minister on 20 February that the vote would take place on 23 June.
England, as a Kingdom, has existed since the year 927 when the Royal Dynasty of Wessex finally overcame its rivals and King Aethelstan was recognised as undisputed king of all the English. The English as a nation had existed for some three or four centuries by that point, while the legal entity that Egbert claimed arguably dated even further back. Potent for future developments was the fact that among the rulers acknowledging Aethelstan were the rulers of Wales. This booklet is published on 23rd April, St George’s Day – St George being the Patron Saint of England. given England’s unique legal system and other features that make it distinct from the rest of the UK, it is worth seeing how England might be affected if the UK were to leave the European Union.
The English legal system is one of this country’s defining characteristics. It is a source of pride and envy of the world, and has been retained by virtually all of the Commonwealth in the aftermath of the break-up of the British Empire. Many of the world’s biggest legal disputes – such as the Berezovsky v Abramovich case and the many divorce cases that involve payouts of hundreds of millions of pounds – are settled in the great courts of London, which victims can rely upon to “do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of this realm, without fear or favour, affection or illwill” English law is unique in having the doctrine of judicial precedent, whereby the reported decisions of the courts form a binding source of law for future decisions. This is very much at odds with the European tradition, which prefers the ‘napoleonic code’ of rule by statute, meaning that the European court of Justice does not recognise the doctrine of precedent, and so is free to depart from its own previous decisions. (Scots law is more aligned to the continental system, and so is less threatened by the increasing power of the EcJ.) This doctrine of judicial precedent is known as ‘common law’. Key characteristics of common law that differ from those of the European system include:
• The word of the law is given greater importance than the interpreted intent of the legislators;
• The court room is adversarial and treats both parties equally;
• Habeas Corpus applies and detention rights are limited;
• Evidence must be beyond reasonable doubt;
• Defendants have the right to be present in court, rather than tried in absentia; and
• Innocence is presumed until guilt is proven.
The main difference, however, is the principle of inherent freedom to act unless an act is specifically banned; under the Napoleonic code, one possesses a given right only if it is first specifically granted to the individual in law. The latter is inherently more prescriptive, and concentrates power in the hands of law-makers, rather than the people, who in England can rely on the centuries-old tradition of ‘the law of the land’. Our proud legal tradition is clearly very much at odds with the European tradition. The decisions of the ECJ – even though it is free to depart from its own previous decisions – are, in whatever current state they find themselves, binding on all courts in England & Wales.
As Business for Britain outlined in its report, ‘change, or go’: “English history has seen this happen twice before, and the precedents should cause concern. The attempt by the Avignon Papacy to set up its own court, the Rota, as the Supreme Court in Christendom obliged Richard II and Edward III to develop Statutes of Praemunire, limiting the legal authority of the Popes and defining it as treasonable. That laid the groundwork for the great break that happened in Henry VIII’s time.
The other controversy involved the Gascon Court of the English monarchs and whether the Paris Court of the King of France had supreme jurisdiction. That conflict fanned the whole Hundred Years War. Both were only settled by the collapse of one of the two competing jurisdictions. The increasing parallels today are consequently alarming.”
A crowded country
As members of the European Union, we have lost control of our borders, in order to comply with the EU’s “freedom of movement” principle – described as one of its ‘key pillars’. This means that, whether he or she has a job or not, any EU citizen can choose to settle in whichever of its 28 member states he or she likes (and this includes those who grew up elsewhere, but have since gained EU citizenship). Because of this, we have had annual net migration in the hundreds of thousands for over a decade.
Before the EU expanded to include many new Eastern European members in 2004, the Home Office predicted that only 13,000 Eastern European migrants would arrive – instead, it was over a million, in what was described in 2013 by Jack Straw, the former Labour Home Secretary, as a “spectacular mistake”.
Similarly, David Cameron promised ahead of the 2010 election to reduce net immigration to the tens of thousands. Instead, it is running well above 300,000 per year – above even the level when the Conservatives gained office – which is equivalent to building a new city the size of Birmingham every three years.
By 2020, the UK will have the highest minimum wage in EU, at £9 an hour. The pull factors for migrants from across the union of 500 million people will be immense. Should we stay in the EU, MigrationWatch, the thinktank, has forecast that the UK population will rocket to 80 million by 2040.
This immigration is not, however, spread evenly throughout the UK. The vast majority crowds into English towns and cities – and England is already much more densely populated than the rest of the UK. With roads congested, train services packed to bursting and the housing crisis worsening from year to year, how will England cope with this further rise in population?
It will become more important than ever for politics to be local, and for decisions to be taken as close to the people they affect as possible. Yes, there should be overarching co-operation, but most policies should not be handed down from on high in Brussels, often with no knowledge of local concerns.
The EU is on a oneway path to “ever-closer union”, with greater power invested in the self-serving Brussels bureaucracy, who probably could not even place the likes of Cumbria, Shropshire and Norfolk on a map, let alone make sensible, well-informed policy decisions on issues affecting them.
England – A Land of Democrats
‘Merrie England’ has a long tradition of democracy. Most famously, England is the home of Magna Carta. described by Lord Denning as “the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot”.
Magna Carta, which later provided the inspiration for the American Constitution, was the most famous example of people power in a country that also experienced the Peasants’ revolt in 1381; the Levellers, who, in the English Civil War, pioneered pamphleteering to argue for equality before the law and religious tolerance; the Diggers, an offshoot of the Levellers who also opposed the autocratic, rule-by-divine-right reign of Charles I; the Chartists, who, in the aftermath of the Great Reform Act in the early 19th century, fought for the extension of the suffrage to include the working classes; and the Suffragettes of the early 20th century.
There was also the glorious revolution of 1688, when the English first chose their own monarch. Long before Magna Carta and the imposition of the ‘Norman yoke’ that provided such a symbolic foreign enemy against which the people could rise, the English were famous for fighting for their rights.
St. George, though little is known about him, was executed for refusing to sacrifice his beliefs to submit to the rule of Apollo, the Greek god. Before him, Boadicea led the native Britons in protesting against the imposition of laws on the indigenous people by a foreign bureaucracy that knew little of this island and cared even less. Even in the dark ages, before the unification of England, the Anglo-Saxons’ monarchic power was limited by the ‘Witenagemots’, which had the power even to depose kings, as they did twice in the 8th century.
The EU, by contrast, has an utter contempt for democracy. Laws are proposed by the European Commission, which is unelected and entirely unaccountable to the peoples of Europe. The institution is led by Jean-Claude Juncker, a man whose belief in transparency is undoubted, as shown by previous statements such as “when it becomes serious, you have to lie”, and “monetary policy is a serious issue. We should discuss this in secret, in the Eurogroup. I’m ready to be insulted as being insufficiently democratic, but I want to be serious.”
Indeed, even our own Tony Blair, a renowned Eurofanatic, once said: “The British people are sensible enough to know that, even if they have a certain prejudice about Europe, they don’t expect their government necessarily to share it or act upon it.” It is clear that, for anyone who cares about democracy, the EU is a deplorable institution. It does not listen to the results of any other referenda – whether it be Denmark voting against the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, France and the Netherlands against the European constitution in 2005, or Ireland against the Lisbon Treaty in 2008, the EU ignores the will of the people.
According to Eurocrats, either the people didn’t understand the question, or they were voting on a different matter (e.g. to punish their national governments). Only in a simple, clear In/out referendum can our will truly be exercised.
Better Off Out
In the 21st century era of globalization, geographical proximity has never mattered less. Why should we submit to be the vassal of a foreign superstate just because we are geographically close? That is the kind of logic that says the Falkland Islands should be given to Argentina, simply because they are too small to cope on their own.
Of the 193 countries in the UN, 165 are not in the EU. Britain is the world’s fifth largest economy, has the world’s fifth largest military, is a major player in the Commonwealth and NATO, and has seats in the G8 and on the UN Security council. We are big enough and rich enough to be a self-governing democracy.
There is only one union we need – the United Kingdom: a historic union of likeminded peoples, linked by ties of family, language, history, culture, economy, and people power: a democratic union with accountability for politicians, full representation for each nation, and a sharing of burdens between countries.
The European Union, with its unaccountable, wasteful centralisation of power, and its pounding of its Southern member states through eye-watering levels of youth unemployment and the crushing austerity imposed on Greece, could not be further from the success of our own Union. Let’s follow the great English democratic tradition. let’s throw off our 21st century norman yoke. It is time to Vote Leave.
For more details from the campaign, please visit www.betteroffout.net