Brexit, The EU, ECHR And The Law

Sad BrexitLast year the UK voted to leave the European Union, in March of this year the UK invoked article 50 of the Treaty on The European Union. In the next few days the UK will be holding a general election that the conservative party look set to win by a large majority, many people who voted to stay in the European Union are scared of a landslide win and an exit from the European Union particularly a “hard brexit”.

Remain voters fear a “hard brexit” could cause GBP to lose value, they fear jobs will be lost, the stock market will crash and that house prices will fall. Anything that might cause a fall in property prices always scares UK homeowners. UK house prices and rents are unaffordable for many so anyone not on the property ladder might see a house price drop as an opportunity.

European Convention on Human Rights

An argument that many remainers have is that the UK will no longer be bound by the European Convention on Human Rights, some who want to leave the EU find the idea that UK law will no longer be influenced by this and other European laws to be a good thing.

The European Court of Human Rights has nothing to do with the EU, it is a Council of Europe court that sits in Strasbourg. The courts purpose is to ensure that states observe their obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The EU Court of Justice sits in Luxembourg, this court provides rulings on EU law such as wonky bananas. ECHR is a Council of Europe treaty and brexit will not stop the UK government from being bound by it.

Common Law

The UK has a common law system, this system was adopted by the United States, Australia, Canada and India. European states operate a system based on Roman law. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) means that anyone accused of a crime has the right to remain innocent until they are proven guilty, it is the job of the police to collect evidence and prove guilt in a common law jurisdiction this rule applies in civil matters too.

Many parts of Europe operate a civil law system where it is the job of the accused to prove their innocence. Since all EU members are bound by UDHR anyone accused of a criminal offence has the right to expect their accuser to prove his or her case, art. 6.2 of the ECHR says, “Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law”. Most EU states do not apply this rule in civil matters such as breach of contract.

Bill of Rights 1689

Many of the people who fear brexit will mean a human rights catastrophe also believe the UK has no constitution. Wikipedia says, “The Bill of Rights Act lays down limits on the powers of the monarch and sets out the rights of Parliament, including the requirement for regular parliaments, free elections and freedom of speech in Parliament” The Bill of Rights Act also sets out the right to a trial by jury and prohibits cruel or unusal punishment. The Bill of Rights Act 1689, Magna Carta, Habeus Corpus Act 1679 and the Claim of Rights are some of the documents that form a British constitution.

This post was written and supplied on behalf of Souters, London based provider of legal secretary courses.