On any view, it’s too close to call, and it’s going to get closer as the days go by. I refer of course to the turgid debate about our continued membership of the European Union, with David Cameron, our esteemed leader, being knocked from pillar to post and back again.
He has changed his position several times, no surprises there, as he is the consummate politician, and this is what consummate politicians do. Put another way, it’s all about keeping as many balls in the air at the same time before decision time, but Cameron being Cameron, his is intent on making a rod for his own back. He started the debate by telling Brexit ministers to toe the party line, then he realised this was untenable, so modified his position by telling them they were free to express their own views. He subsequently realised this was too generous, as some of his Brexit ministers are big hitters, so his latest directive is to tell them not to undermine his efforts to win a deal in Brussels. In short, shut up, and grin and bear it.
It isn’t going to work, for the simple reason that the European Union is an emotive issue, and the outcome of the referendum will be equally based on emotion. Fair enough, there will be the captains of industry using a battery of statistics to support in or out, we’ll have the limp wristed lefties telling us that without the Convention on Human Rights, we are a spit away from anarchy, and lawyers like me who cannot embrace the European Court in its many guises as somehow superior to our own domestic courts.
Lord Judge, the aptly named and very excellent former Lord Chief Justice, did his best to persuade the Supreme Court to ‘balls up’ when going head to head with the European Court, but without success. You will remember the litany of absurd reasons for resisting deportation which were upheld by the Supreme Court. This is all the more amazing when it is borne in mind that the Justices of the Supreme Court are appointed on merit, and have a wealth of judicial experience. This cannot be said for the Justices of the European Court, who are drawn from all walks of life and in a number of cases, are nominated by countries where the independence of the judiciary is a figment of the imagination.
In his ‘negotiations’, Cameron may try to be all things to all men, and will want to put a positive spin on his failure to ‘bring home the bacon’. There is little prospect of progress to the extent that he has something new to offer us in the forthcoming referendum. For my part, unless our Supreme Court becomes supreme in more than just name, I shall be voting for Brexit.
PS. Following my comments (above) on the European Court in its many disguises, word has reached me from Downing Street that domestic law will be changed to make clear that Parliament is sovereign and British courts will not be bound by Europe’s Charter on Fundamental Rights. Better late than never, and real progress if this proposed change comes about. The jury are out!