Monday 20 June 2016

What would post-Brexit Tories do to the UK legal system?

If the British public vote to quit the EU then there would be a number of unavoidable consequences. There would be the constitutional issues to consider (a second Scottish independence referendum for example), the negotiation of a new settlement between the UK and the EU (do we accept the "Norwegian Option" or do we bail out of the common market completely) and then there's the necessity of negotiating new trade deals with the rest of the World too, because our current trade relations with other economies are founded on the fact that we're members of the single market and the EU.

One of the most important consequences of Brexit would be the need for a comprehensive review and restructuring of pretty much the entire UK legal system. This is because for the last 40 years UK law has evolved in combination with EU law. Anyone who imagines that the job of disentangling such a relationship is going to be a quick and easy one is clearly imagining some kind of utopian post-Brexit fantasy land where the UK immediately becomes a land of milk and honey for everyone, with no instability, no uncertainty, no difficulties, and no hard work to sort out the mess.

Jeremy Corbyn has said that Brexit would cause the UK legal system to be subjected to a very fast review by the Tory government, and that whole swathes of UK law would be affected, including employment law, consumer rights and environmental regulations.

Expert opinion is on Jeremy Corbyn's side. Professor Michael Dougan of Liverpool Law School has stated that this legal review "would be an enormous theoretical undertaking" and that "it would not be done through parliament". He went on to say that there is a strong consensus that the only way that this huge task could be done is "through an enormous delegation of power from parliament to the government", which would mean that the Tory government would be able to set about restructuring pretty much the entire UK legal system to suit their own interests, free from parliamentary scrutiny (so much for voting Brexit to defend democracy eh?)

The Tory track record when it comes to legal issues is an alarmingly poor one. Here are just a few of the things they've done (much of it with assistance from their hapless Lib-Dem sidekicks between 2010 and 2015):

  • Introduction of "secret courts" meaning that since 2013, in the UK (not North Korea) it's possible for a defendant to be found guilty in a courtroom that they are not allowed to enter, on charges that they are not allowed to know, based on evidence that they are not allowed to see.
  • Appointment of the first Lord Chancellor in three Centuries with no legal qualifications (Chris Grayling) immediately followed by the second unqualified Lord Chancellor (Michael Gove). 
This track record of ideological vandalism, incompetence, totalitarianism and utter contempt for the rule of law is utterly appalling, especially since the points detailed above are far from a complete analysis of the damage the Tories have been doing.

In light of this information, who in their right mind would give the green light to this bunch of lawless ideological fanatics to begin restructuring the UK legal system to suit their own interests?

Legal experts agree that a major restructuring of the UK legal system would be inevitable after Brexit. It's absolutely clear that the government of the day would be the ones to undertake this task. It doesn't matter what your opinions on things like immigration, sovereignty or the economy are, you have to accept the fact that a vote for Brexit would be a green light to the Tories to have an ideologically driven rampage through the UK legal system.

Even if you still think that issues like immigration or sovereignty trump concerns over the damage a bunch of fanatically right-wing Tories could do to the UK legal system, you've got to accept that that further empowering the Tories to attack our labour rights, our consumer rights and our environment is one of the inevitable costs of getting what you want. 

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