The country (UK) has decided to leave the EU: so what next?
In the early hours of yesterday morning, the referendum was concluded and the country decided to leave the EU on a high turnout. The Prime Minister is to resign and there may be an election by Christmas.
One of the key issues that decided the referendum was the question of immigration and the other was sovereignty. While those politicians who were in favour of remaining in the EU, went on about the economy, security, jobs and so forth, it was obvious from interviews in the street (vox pops) that very many people were concerned about more basic matters. As far as many of them were concerned, they were suffering from the effects of austerity and the people who were making matters worse were the immigrants. They were ‘flooding’ into the country and were putting a strain on public services and bidding down wages (it was claimed) thus making their own lives a misery. Membership of the EU made matters worse as we were unable to stem the tide because of their rules. Coming out was clearly a solution to their woes.
Sovereignty also reared its head from time to time and a familiar line was taking back our sovereignty so that we can make our own laws and run our own affairs, free from interference by Brussels bureaucrats and unelected judges in Strasbourg. The election of our own judges is something that must have passed us all by.
So what of the Human Rights Act? The Conservative’s manifesto made clear their desire to scrap it and replace it with a British Bill of Rights. Months have gone by since the election and no sign has been seen of this document.
But if anything is clear from yesterday’s events, it is that hatred of the EU and its alleged interference in our affairs – including our legal affairs – is very strong and was one of the deciding factors which enabled the Brexiters to win the referendum. This has been whipped up by a right-wing press and not a little xenophobia.
The problem now for the new government – expected at the time of writing to be formed by Boris Johnson – is that they just cannot leave the BBoR to one side in view of the fervour generated and promises they have made to the electorate. But, the EU will be wanting a speedy departure by the UK from the EU, and not on painless terms either, to prevent contagion spreading to other disaffected countries. So considerable time will need to be spent by thousands of civil servants negotiating new terms, agreements and treaties to enable our new relationship with the EU to continue. Enormous parliamentary time will be needed as well. The question is therefore – will there be the time or energy for this battle? Getting a diminished set of rules through the Lords will not be easy.
It is a great pity that so many politicians have allowed the untruths and exaggerations by the right-wing media to gain such traction and to go unanswered. Many believe that all red tape and rulings from Brussels are automatically bad news and diminish our lives. We would be so much better off without them they say. The word ‘free’ is used a lot: free of such rules, free to trade where we will, free to rule our lives and free of encumbrances generally. The HRA has been a lifeline for many, many people in the UK. They have used it to secure redress against arbitrary decisions which affect their lives. Public authorities have to be cognisant of the act in their policy making. Is all this to go?
We may ask the question ‘free for whom?’ Axing the HRA will not provide ordinary people with more freedom, but less.
So whether we will see the end of the HRA remains to be seen.