The Purvis Society was delighted to welcome Professor Longshaw, a distinguished legal academic, who began her presentation to the Sixth Form Purvis Society with the sobering thought that members of the audience would, if the Conservatives remain in power, be asked to vote on the EU referendum. She also informed all and sundry that, like it or not, they are citizens of the EU. Wondering if this could be a good thing or not, she described two scenarios: a student who wants to read for a degree in Spain but has only English A Levels as entry qualifications; and a fully trained architect who, because of his British qualifications, cannot work in Germany. Diverting from this intriguing theme, she painted another picture: of an inebriated young person, caught embarrassingly on CCTV, whose image was subsequently used in a poster campaign. “Human Rights” appear to have been flouted, the “right to privacy” ignored.
Promising to return to these themes, Professor Longshaw then moved on to the history behind European law. Its origins are to be found in the fall-out from the Second World War when politicians were trying their utmost to ensure that such an atrocity could never happen again. Leaping nimbly from the initial inception of the European collaboration, she explained the background to the European Coal and Steel Community, the Treaty of Rome and the European Economic Community, mentioning, on the way, Human Rights legislation.
Subsequently suggesting that it is fine to have these laws and treaties, she asked who is to enforce them. Clearly a Civil Service and a court are needed, but who should be running these? One does not elect those responsible directly and, in the UK, much of the law is actually established by the courts, which, of course, are run by (unelected) judges. Picking up on a point of jurisprudence, she asked, “Why do these people have the right to make laws that affect me?” without, of course, expecting a response. Pointing out that the Treaty of Rome does not legislate for individuals and that significant problems can also arise if the laws of a member state conflict with those of the EU, she told her audience that EU law takes precedence. This is interesting for the UK, where succeeding Parliaments can alter laws established by their predecessors. Having been reminded that the volume of European law has escalated over the years, we were reassured to hear that the main crux of the item, the Convention, remains but that it seems no longer to be fulfilling its purpose. Recent media articles have included “The foreign beggars Britain can’t stop”, “Lithuanian suspected of murder cannot be deported” and “Illegal immigrant can stay in the UK because he has a cat” and these, the tip of the iceberg, the Professor suggested, might indicate that the Convention is being abused. However, among the rights bestowed by EU membership, are those that mean that our student can go to Spain, our architect may work in Germany…
Refering to the Conservatives’ ambition to scrap Human Rights and the possibility of leaving the EU after the referendum, she declared that a lot of the problems will not simply go away, but will keep the lawyers happy for years! Closing her remarks, she returned to her opening theme, reminding her young audience that, in 2017, they would be voting…a high-level discussion closed the lecture, which, as usual, was followed by a superb dinner prepared by our Executive Chef, Jon Smith.