BrexitCentral: An independent sovereign UK could not be bound by the rulings of a foreign court

3 December 2017

In recent weeks, we have become used to unreasonable demands from the European Commission, from their refusal to discuss trade to the seemingly arbitrary size of the “divorce bill”. But their most bizarre claim of all was the declaration in May that they wanted European law, overseen by the European Court of Justice, to continue to apply to EU citizens in the UK after Brexit.

Such a suggestion would create a privileged class of over 3 million EU residents in the UK, whose rights would be enforced by a court beyond the influence of our Government and Parliament. This could be incredibly long-lasting – persisting for the lifetimes of EU citizens currently resident and potentially for those of their children as well. There is no exact precedent for this situation in history, but the closest parallel comes from the nineteenth century, when the British Supreme Court for China exercised extra-territorial jurisdiction over British citizens in concessions such as Shanghai, so they were not subject to the jurisdiction of the local Chinese courts.

Resisting this claim is not, therefore, anything to do with whether one voted to Leave or Remain. It is about upholding a simple matter of principle: independent sovereign nations cannot be bound by the rulings of foreign courts. We would have no more right to say that our Supreme Court should rule on British nationals on the Continent. George Washington had it right when, as first President of the United States, he declared:

“If we are to be told by a foreign Power…what we shall do, and what we shall not do, we have Independence yet to seek, and have contended hitherto for very little.”

To read Owen Paterson’s piece for BrexitCentral in full, click here.

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