European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen (Photo by Dan Kitwood / POOL / AFP)

The EU chooses lawlessness

The European Parliament is veering towards gunboat diplomacy

Artillery Row

On Thursday last week, the EU put out a frankly bizarre statement. Despite the Windsor Framework allegedly bringing joy and peace, the EU has decided to take unilateral action. The EU Parliament, no doubt entirely of its own will, suddenly passed a new law which says the EU Commission can punish the UK whenever it chooses.

In a manner totally immune to any comparison to the Mafia, it said, “This is a mechanism that I hope we never have to use. It is a nice economy the UK has — it’d be a shame if something happened to it. Capeesh?

It will be almost impossible to pretend that the EU is actually lawful in any sense of the word

None of this is actually lawful. The EU has form for making silly statements about law, and I tend to publish on them. The EU is a creation of law — at its heart, it is nothing but law — and I publish on law.

We are getting to a point, however, where it will be almost impossible to pretend that the EU is actually lawful in any sense of the word.

The EU was very upset about the proposed Northern Ireland Protocol Bill. It complained that the bill breached international law. The EU proudly trumpets that it doesn’t do that. Have no doubt, this new law does that. It breaks international law because the EU promised to use the dispute resolution mechanics in the Treaty — but instead it is giving itself arbitrary powers to hurt UK businesses if it dislikes the UK government.

Worse, it breaks EU Law. After all, the UK and EU differ. The UK can lawfully pass a law like this, because we have a different constitution. Think of it like an Apple or Android phone — whichever one your phone runs determines what you can or can’t do. 

We can both expel international law we don’t want, or bend and shape it when it is here. We do this through a mechanism called incorporation. Our Parliament is supreme — it is master over international law when it is involved.

The EU is not like that. When international law operates inside the EU, it is master, and the EU will honour and obey it. The EU deals with international law by saying, “I will respect you, but, if you conflict with my constitution, my Court will save me and you shall have no power here. That is what the German constitution did to EU law, which created an EU wide Rule of Law Crisis that is now widely recognised (read about it in the Spectator). 

Law is the consistent application of rules. This is pure tyranny

These constitutions, these operating systems, work in similar ways — even if ours is different. Even under EU law, the EU does not have the power to lawfully act as it has.

Regardless, it is definitely breaking international law. International law demands respect for treaties. The TCA is the treaty between the UK and EU. It has a comprehensive dispute resolution mechanic. That is how disagreements are supposed to be settled. Both sides agreed.

The EU has unilaterally rejected that and simply said, “The Commission is in charge. That is frankly silly. It is so absurd that no trade agreement across the globe would let it happen. It goes well beyond the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill that the EU clutched its pearls over.

This is absurd because it is gun-boat diplomacy by something pretending to be law. Law cannot behave this way. Law is the consistent application of rules. This is pure tyranny. Even Henry VIII had to pretend he was acting lawfully to cut off your head — the EU seems much less constrained.

Just as Parliament is turning its mind to the Windsor framework, the EU has once again shown the world what it is. It is bullying and lawless. Under our system, only our politicians can protect us. Will they?

Enjoying The Critic online? It's even better in print

Try five issues of Britain’s newest magazine for £10

Critic magazine cover