Saturday, June 23, 2007

UK Opts Out of Charter of Fundamental Rights

Amongst the predictable back slapping that has accompanied Blair's 'good' work on the EU treaty, some detail has been overlooked. On the BBC's website the opt-out of the Charter of Fundamental Rights gets a passing mention, but little substantial detail on what this actually means. Fortunately, The Independent has already explained what this Charter entails:

Prohibition of eugenic practices, particularly those aiming at the selection of person. Article 3

What's at stake: Science is seeking to eradicate disabilities by genetic manipulation. It might be possible for parents to order a "designer" baby.

No one should be subjected to torture. Article 4

What's at stake: Since the invasion of Iraq, British soldiers have found themselves in the dock over the abuse of civilian detainees.

Everyone has the right to the protection of personal data concerning him or her. Article 8

What's at stake: A vast amount of data is stored on each of us already. From 2010, ID cards will be compulsory for anyone applying for a passport in the UK.

Everyone has the right to freedom of assembly and of association. Article 12

What's at stake: Anti-war protests prompted the Government to bring in legislation to prevent unlicensed demos within quarter of a mile of Parliament.

No one can be removed to a state where there is a serious risk of torture. Article 19

What's at stake: The Government's determination to deport terror suspects to countries with questionable human rights records.

So, nothing major then, just the protection of UK citizens from torture, protecting the right to protest and protecting our privacy. Pretty fundamental rights that should clearly be enshrined in law (unless you support torture and totalitarian tendencies of course). And what does Blair have to say about his success?

"This deal gives us a chance to move on. It gives us a chance to concentrate on the issues to do with the economy, organised crime, terrorism, immigration, defence, climate change, the environment, energy - the problems that really concern citizens in Europe."

Yes, because in a continent with a history of totalitarian dictatorships, we are more concerned about crime and money than governments infringing our basic civil liberties. Perhaps Blair is right, maybe protecting UK citizens from torture by the state and protecting our right to protest against a totalitarian regime is less important than the economy. Interesting that he also claims that citizens are more concerned with organised crime. I just love the idea that citizens should be protected from the criminal activities of their peers, but not of their elected officials. Because that is the fundamental point at the heart of this issue. The opt-out enables the UK government to place the rights of UK politicians ahead of the rights of UK citizens. Still, as the BBC claim:

EU treaty good for UK, says Blair

They just forgot to add the word 'politicians'.