9th June 2021
There is a new line-to-take.
This line is that a requirement to comply with legal obligations is to be dismissed as ‘legal purism’.
This line is being promoted at the moment by Brexit minister Lord Frost in respect of the obligations of the United Kingdom under the Northern Irish Protocol (obligations that, of course, Frost himself negotiated and endorsed).
Frost avers that for the European Union to require the United Kingdom to comply with this obligations is to take a ‘purist’ approach.
For many years the United Kingdom was protected from the European Union’s legal(istic) approach to its engagement with ‘third countries’.
As one of the big three member states, it generally got its way internally, and had a number of opt-outs for things it did not like.
Trade agreements were left to the European Commission to negotiate: the United Kingdom just benefitted from the results like a teenager benefiting from the washing and ironing magically being done.
And now we are on the outside – looking in on an international organisation that, more than any other in the world, is a creature of law.
And the European Union takes law very seriously.
We are going to have to get used to it.
That said: it is not unusual for a party to a serious agreement to want to re-negotiate terms.
And mocking Frost for wanting to change something he so recently approved can only go so far, and it does not rid us of his perceived concerns.
Perhaps there is a case for the protocol to be amended, or perhaps not.
But, either way, it is a folly for him to approach the problem by dismissing legal obligations as ‘purist’.
For, if this is the United Kingdom’s casual approach to law, why would one expect the United Kingdom to abide by any replacement legal obligations?
By attacking the very notion of legal compliance, Frost is not helping the long-term interests of the United Kingdom.
What he is doing is a silly thing, and he should not go there.
The rule of law matters – pure and simple.
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