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The new sovereigntism: what it means for human rights law in the UK

Cross-posted from LSE Brexit Blog

For many people, Brexit is about taking back ‘control’; about determining for ‘ourselves’ what the law is, how it applies, how we spend our money, and how we develop our policies. The fact that many people both before the referendum and now struggle to identify with accuracy an area of law or policy in which the EU has ‘taken’ control (and not had competence ceded or shared through a Treaty change ratified by the UK) is irrelevant; what matters is the perception of a lack of national autonomy, and an associated corrosion of domestic democratic control.

Deep within at least parts of the arguments that circulate around Brexit is a form of new sovereigntism that is deeply worrying to the rule of law. The UK is hardly alone in this phenomenon; as far back as 2000 Peter Spiro wrote about the emergence of new sovereigntism in the United States; about a group of scholars and intellectuals who were not opposed to international law per se, but who thought that the US should be able to engage with it as and when it wanted to. In other words, these scholars promoted an a la carte approach to international law, underpinned by a “brand of anti-internationalism [that] runs deep in the American political tradition”. Continue reading The new sovereigntism: what it means for human rights law in the UK

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This is why repeal matters

Cross-posted from the University Times

Last week, William Binchy – a long-time anti-choice campaigner in Ireland – affirmed his view that the eighth amendment had “done its job”, so to speak. And it has. It was introduced into the constitution in 1983 to make sure that abortion could never be legalised in Ireland. As a result, pregnant persons in Ireland cannot access a lawful abortion unless they are likely to die without one. This makes ours one of the most restrictive abortion law regimes in the world. Continue reading This is why repeal matters

An Abortion Law Immune from Constitutional Review?

This is cross-posted from HumanRights.ie 

In yesterday’s hearing of the Committee on the 8th Amendment to the Constitution talk turned to the idea that a new constitutional provision might be crafted and introduced which would provide that any law on abortion would be immune from constitutional challenge. In his presentation to the Committee, David Kenny made it clear that this was what he took the Citizens’ Assembly to have meant by its recommendation. In my evidence I posited a different interpretation, namely “as a proposal designed to make explicit the power to legislate for abortion to the extent recommended in the legislative proposals made by the Assembly”. On reflection, either understanding is probably sustainable. Reading the transcripts of the Assembly again, I still consider that the concern with ensuring the Oireachtas had “exclusive” competence to make law for abortion was intended to ensure absolute clarity about the power to legislate for the issue, but it could also be interpreted as saying that in doing so the Oireachtas should be empowered to make a law that would be immune from constitutional review. If the latter interpretation were pursued, would this be desirable and what would be the implications? Continue reading An Abortion Law Immune from Constitutional Review?

Evidence to Oireachtas Committee on the 8th Amendment

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Yesterday I went to Dublin to contribute to the work of the Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which is considering the implications of the recommendations of the Citizens Assembly. My written evidence is available here, and the videos of the session can be accessed on the Oireachtas TV stream.