Thursday, 9 April 2009

EU orders voting rights for prisoners

The British government is drawing up proposals on giving some prisoners the right to vote. We initially covered this story back in November.

Currently, anyone serving a prison sentence or out on licence loses their right to vote. Part of the price of committing a crime is losing your right to vote, it has been this way since the 19th century. But of course, the European Empire doesn't approve of depriving its citizens of their "rights" so they've issued a directive instructing member states to give prisoners the vote.

The British government, in a rare show of defiance, are looking at a compromise of giving the vote only to prisoners with sentences of 12 months or less. It's a futile show of defiance because the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that prisoners must be allowed to vote and the British government has allowed EU law to have primacy over our own. The compromise will be challenged and our imperial overlords will rule that all prisoners must have the vote.


LAH said...

You might think it nit picking but the European Court of Human Rights has nothing to do with the EU. You are wrong to say that the EU is trying to force the British Government to allow prisoners to have the vote.

In fact, ECHR is founded from another international organisation, the Council of Europe, set up after World War II at the suggestion of Winston Churchill and others who saw it as a means to prevent world war and the holocaust ever happening again.

As Britain is a founding member of CoE and signed ECHR it lost its sovereignty over such matters then, just as it did, for example in the field of security by joining NATO in 1949. NATO may take its decisions by unanimity but the poltical reality is that we are dependent for our security on the US and other countries who form part of the alliance.

When UKIP argue that Britain lost its sovereignty by being in the EU the reality is that we’ve never had sovereignty in the first place! No country, not even the United States, can be its own master. We live in an interdependent world and as for example 3,000 leading scientists in 1993 said conclusively that climate change cometh that’s good enough for me and cooperating through the EU and other international organisations to prevent it must be 'common sense', a phrase much beloved of UKIP.

We might not have sovereignty but by acting collectively we can achieve far more.

Let's change the EU by all means because it's distant, elitist and does things it should leave to the Member States but Britain needs to be in there leading the EU not ignoring or leaving it. And what might surprise some is that is exactly the view of successive United States administrations.

Love it or hate it, you can't ignore the EU.

wonkotsane said...

LAH, the ECHR ruled on an EU directive, they didn't make their judgement off their own backs.

The UK does not need to be in the EU. We only need a seat at the table when they're making 75% of our laws. Once we leave we need only the same input as Norway, Switzerland and Greenland do and that is what is relevant to a free trade agreement.

LAH said...

Thanks for the reply. The key point is that if the UK were to leave the EU the ECHR would have exactly the same jurisdiction over UK law.

In the case concerning prisoner voting, Hirst vs United Kingdom, there was no reference to any EU Directive in the judgement so far as I can see but even if there had been the Court's role is to apply the European Convention on Human Rights - nothing to do with the EU.

This may all sound bizarre to people who don't like interference in British life from outside but my first post was aimed at saying don't blame the EU for everything!

By the way, when you say 'they' are making our laws you surely mean 'we'. The Council of the European Union, along with the European Parliament, has the legislative role in the institutional structure of the EU, and the Council of course includes a British Government Minister. Now that's far from perfect I admit but we are part of the EU law making process and can you name ONE thing which Britain has EVER been forced to do which the British Government opposed, be it Conservative or Labour?

The fact is that if British Government Ministers don't oppose something put forward by the European Commission as a draft Regulation or Draft Directive we cannot really complain, can we? If we don’t like the Regulation or Directive is the British Minister and the British Government we should hold to account through the Westminster Parliament.

And if the loss of British fishing rights is mentioned as an example (and it was a real shame, or humiliation, for Britain to give up these rights) I can only say that Ted Heath was the Prime Minister who gave them up, the British Parliament accepted it and the British people also did so to , directly, by voting 2 to 1 to remain in the EC in the 1975 referendum. We only have ourselves to blame!

Finally, if the UK left the EU and negotiated a Free Trade Agreement along the lines of the European Economic Agreement which is what Norway signed , we would still have to pay towards the cost of helping new members states (e.g. contributing to the costs of upgrading the Warsaw sewage system!). Norway has to pay despite not being a member of the EU. It also has to accept changes to the detailed trading agreements without having a vote on it and although it could at the outset pick and choose what it wanted to include in the Free Trade Agreement, it has no ability to change ongoing decisions which because of the technical and mundane nature of the agreements are frequent. In other words, Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein, the Members of the EEA, and Switzerland, which has a bilateral trading agreement with the EU, have less power to make changes or influence decisions than if they were member states of the European Union.

This post has probably felt like you were reading War and Peace! Sorry for it’s length but there are many misconceptions about the EU. It certainly has its bad points and needs some reform but it’s helped to spread economic and political stability, moving the area of instability further and further away from the UK. This was certainly the case with bringing in the 8 countries of Central Europe in 2004, and in the 1980s with Portugal, Spain and Greece.

Best wishes