It is not every day that a national paper contains what is, in effect, a love letter to EU law. But today is the day. Writing in today's Guardian, our Doughty Street Chambers' colleague Helena Kennedy QC highlights the importance of EU law and its often underestimated or ignored benefits:
"The courts of EU countries do things for us because we do likewise for them... Harmonising law across Europe has raised standards – to our advantage. Europe-wide law is integrated into our lives."
She cites multiple examples of the benefits of EU law which were raised in "overwhelming evidence" before the Committee she chairs in the House of Lords - including benefits to businesses, such as being able to secure a judgment in a UK court against a debtor elsewhere in the EU and being able to have it enforced; and benefits to people who have holiday accidents in Spain and can access "swifter resolution and compensation" thanks to EU law.
She argues that the strength and value of EU law is blocking Theresa May at every turn:
"The problem for our prime minister is that at every turn her head hits the hard wall of law and the role of the European court of justice (ECJ). Theresa May has cornered herself by insisting that the UK withdraw totally from the court and its decisions. Nobody explained to her that if you have cross-border rights and contracts you have to have cross-border law and regulations. And if you have cross-border law you have to have supranational courts to deal with disputes.
Call it what you like, but in the end you need rules as to conduct, and arbiters for disagreement. Even the World Trade Organisation has a disputes court."
But May has had a bellyful of European courts after her run-in with the totally separate European court of human rights when, as home secretary, she was trying to deport the fundamentalist preacher Abu Qatada to Jordan. Jordan’s use of torture on political opponents proved a handicap to his expulsion. However, although all this related to a quite separate legal regime, the words Europe and court in the same sentence still invite obstinate opposition from May.
This is now a problem in the Brexit negotiations, because all the preliminary matters raised by EU leaders involve legal commitments from which we cannot walk away. Calls to cut and run without paying a penny in the Brexit settlement are unlawful and unethical. It is not surprising that the other 27 want to see the colour of our money up front."
Helena Kennedy QC also emphasises that European law is our law, not outsiders' law, imposed upon us by others:
"For years the British public have been subjected to a barrage of tabloid mendacity suggesting that we are victims of an onslaught of foreign-invented law and interference by foreign courts. In fact, a vast amount of incredibly advantageous law has been created in the EU in the past 40 years. And here’s the rub: we have been major contributors to that law. The British are good at law. We have had a strong hand in the creation of EU law."
EU law is our law, and it is "good law," she says, and "good law is a protection we have to preserve. The price of its loss will be very high indeed."
Helena Kennedy QC's full Opinion piece appears in today's Guardian.
If the prime minister thinks she she can retain the best bits of the European Union without any of the obligations, its institutions or legal underpinnings, she really is living in another galaxy.