In discussion: Brexit
With debate over the UK's continuing participation in the European Union hotting up, Solicitors Journal invites its readers to explain which way they are voting come the 23 June referendum. Can they persuade you?
When asked why English lawyers should want our country to leave the EU, I would respond that lawyers should be the best and most loyal citizens. Any good citizen should be proud of his or her country. In the case of England, we have much to be proud of.
When our English nation state's great founder, King Alfred, promulgated his great legal code circa 893 AD, he expressly based its legitimacy upon Christian values and upon the free traditions of the English nation. This code set the course of English legal development on a very different jurisprudential path to that of our continental neighbours. Thus, even before England was unified, in 927 AD under Alfred's grandson, Athelstan, English law was already developing along the path of common law, resting upon the customs of the English people.
Our Anglo-Saxon forbearers also set us on the path towards another English constitutional contribution to the modern world: representative democracy. Their system of representation by means of consultative assemblies, culminating in the great council of the nation, the Witan, is the root of our democratic system.
This was supplemented by Magna Carta's affirmation of the right to a fair trial, and its arguably more important contribution to the idea of the rule of law. This is unlike the continental jurisprudential legacy of Roman law derived from the Institutes of Justinian, the legacy of imperial tyranny, where individuals' rights are only those which have been permitted by law. Implicitly, the civil law state is claiming to be antecedent to all rights.
By contrast, we cherish England as the 'land of liberty' and of the 'liberties of the freeborn Englishman', in which our freedom is only limited by express law as the foundations of our constitution and legal system. The 1689 Bill of Rights completed our unique representative democratic tradition.
It is no wonder, therefore, that all good citizens, patriots, and lawyers who care about England should be united in calling for an exit from an institution founded on jurisdictional principles so at odds with the rights and liberties of Englishmen and Englishwomen.
It was a policy blunder to have gone into the EU in the first place. The aim of the British establishment in doing so was to try to maintain its own pretensions of grandeur - to strut on the 'world stage' as a great power. It was misguided folly for ordinary people to have ratified that decision in the 1975 referendum, but now we have the chance on 23 June to triumphantly reassert our freeborn rights and liberties by voting to leave. Let us do so and let the nation stand proud again.