FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The fourth of the Bruges Group’s papers on the draft EU Constitution dissects the threat it poses to Britain’s legal system. Oliver Letwin exposes one of the least noticed features of the EU constitution. He argues that it provides the basis for the gradual transfer of virtually the entire criminal law from national Parliaments to Brussels. The Criminal Justice provisions will undermine Britain’s laws, legal system and procedure and the unique safeguards that have developed in Common Law. Oliver Letwin also critiques the Government’s slight-of-hand in pretending that the Constitution does not represent a significant change to Britain’s laws and legal traditions.
Oliver Letwin highlights the provisions of concern. Chapter IV Section I, reads: "The Union will take measures to prevent and combat crime, racism and xenophobia". It goes on to tell us that the Union will aim at "the approximation of criminal laws". Chapter IV Section IV tells us that: "judicial co-operation in criminal matters in the Union...shall include the approximation of the laws and regulations of the Member States". He says, "This is, in other words, a document that begins to put the local judiciaries in the position of working towards the approximation of the criminal laws between the States - I don't think that implication has been spelt out by Mr Hain if, indeed, he has remotely noticed it."
Oliver Letwin then analyses the so-called Framework Law, which is to establish measures to: "prevent and settle conflicts of jurisdictions between Member States." And, "to facilitate co-operation in criminal matters between judicial and equivalent authorities in relation to proceedings and the enforcement of decisions." These will, according to Mr Letwin, effect criminal proceedings and the enforcement of decisions, i.e. in policing. A European Framework Law may establish "minimum rules concerning admissibility of evidence, definition of the rights of individuals in criminal procedure, rights to victims and any other specific aspects of criminal procedure which the Council has identified." This turns even court procedure into an EU Competence (power).
The authors of the draft are primarily concerned with definitions of, and sanctions for, serious crimes. Such as: "terrorism, trafficking in human beings and sexual exploitation of women and children, illicit drug trafficking, illicit arms trafficking, money laundering, corruption, counterfeiting of means of payment, computer crime and organised crime." Yet the authors of the draft don't regard that as a limit, because they go on to tell us that the Council can add "to the list". This could extend the EU institutions interference into all criminal areas.
This is, in short, a clear charter for the progressive transfer of control over the criminal law of the UK and other Member States from our Parliament to the Council, the Commission, the ECJ and the European Parliament. Oliver Letwin states that, "If Mr Hain believes that such a transfer is a "tidying up exercise", it is difficult to know what Mr Hain would regard as serious."
As Oliver Letwin argues, "The modern State has, as its primary purpose, to protect one person against others. In our own case, this conception goes right back to Magna Carta and beyond... Our freedom was established when Henry II set about the creation of the common law; when the Barons brought King John to Runnymede... Right back to the foundations of the modern State... " These freedoms will be undermined by the EU Constitution.
Oliver Letwin explains why the criminal justice provisions are in the Constitution, "...the only plausible motive for the people who have drafted this draft - is to lay one of the principal foundations of statehood. The authors have built into the Constitution the basis upon which, progressively, the combined forces of the Council, of the ECJ, of the Parliament, and of the judiciaries of the Member States, will transfer power over the criminal law from the Member States to the central authorities, and thereby help to establish those central authorities as the primary State."
He Concludes, "This is not a tidying-up exercise. To transfer power over the criminal law is, on the contrary, one of the most fundamental things that could happen to this country's constitution. It is bad enough that such a thing should be put forward by a Prime Minister of this country. It is unspeakable that he should suggest it is something about which it is not necessary to vote in a referendum and for which it is not necessary to obtain the full-hearted consent of the British people."