Charter of Fundamental Rights – Government Report

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:45 pm on 21st November 2017.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee 3:45 pm, 21st November 2017

As I have already suggested, both Tony Blair and Lord Goldsmith strongly resisted the charter of fundamental rights being made part of UK law, as made clear by my European Scrutiny Committee in its report of April 2014, which anyone can read, so it is impossible to understand why the Labour party has now taken retaining the charter as its position—although as someone said to Alice said in “Through the Looking Glass”:

“I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

The Conservative party categorically ruled out bringing the charter into UK law in our manifesto, and we also voted against the Lisbon treaty. That included the charter, which the European Court of Justice has since ruled did apply to us, because it includes the application of EU law as applied by the European Court of Justice, including assertions of constitutional supremacy over our Acts of Parliament and the vicarious power to disapply those Acts. An example of that—I mentioned this in my exchange with my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Grieve—is the striking down by the House of Lords of the Merchant Shipping Act 1988 in the Factortame case. For all those reasons, it would be unconscionable to include the charter in this Bill.

With great respect to those who have tabled amendments, the European Court of Justice’s interpretation and the case law, which is so greatly liable to EU jurisprudential elasticity by the Court itself, would thereby enable the UK Supreme Court to disapply Acts of Parliament. That is absolutely fundamental, and it would also be completely undemocratic. It has already happened under the present aegis in the case of the 1988 Act, but it would happen more and more frequently, and we would simply have to accept it, because it is not a question of opinion; it is a question of law and of fact.