Exiting the European Union has the potential to severely, negatively impact children living in Britain today, yet so far Brexit has remained a discussion between and about adults, writes Helen Stalford, Professor of Law at the University of Liverpool. This piece is part of the UCL European Institute’s commissioning partnership ‘Brexit Divisions’ with openDemocracy.
On 23 June 2016 adults will decide on the future of the UK’s membership of the European Union. While proposals to extend the vote to 16 and 17 year olds were defeated in the House of Lords in December 2015, they reignited debate over the substance and scope of children’s democratic participation and their capacity to make informed political decisions. None of these discussions or, indeed, any of the wider debates surrounding the forthcoming referendum have considered the impact that the UK’s withdrawal from the EU might have on children’s rights and lives. This is in spite of the fact that children, who make up one fifth of the EU population and nearly one quarter (approximately 15 million) of the UK population, have the biggest stake in the outcome of the referendum. As current and future citizens, consumers, movers, workers, parents, and carers, children will bear the full brunt and, indeed, the benefits of any decision to either remain in or withdraw from the EU. Continue reading
Philippe Sands, Professor of Law at UCL and practising barrister in international law, and Helena Kennedy, a leading barrister and academic in human rights law, civil liberties and constitutional issues, were members of the 2011 Commission on a Bill of Rights. In highlights from a recent article in the London Review of Books, they discuss how human rights intersect with politics, examine the UK’s strained relationship with the European Convention on Human Rights, and question the possible motivations lying behind the proposed Bill.
In March 2011 the UK government established a Commission on a Bill of Rights, charged with investigating ‘the creation of a UK Bill of Rights that incorporates and builds on all our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, ensures that these rights continue to be enshrined in UK law, and protects and extends our liberties’.
We were appointed to the Commission by Nick Clegg. The circumstances were not auspicious, and we were concerned from the outset that our composition – all white, almost all male, almost all lawyers and London-based – would undermine our ability to speak with any legitimacy. The Conservatives had come into government committed to tearing up the Human Rights Act, an early product of the previous Labour government seen by many of the new government’s Tory supporters (and some in the media) as little more than a charter for foreign terrorists and local criminals. The Liberal Democrats, on the other hand, strongly supported the Act and the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights that it introduced into UK law. There were eight members, under the chairmanship of Leigh Lewis, a retired senior civil servant who was hopeful that we might exceed the miserably low expectations of most commentators and come up with something useful.
Dean Spielmann, President of the European Court of Human Rights since September 2012, has served as a Judge in the Court for over a decade. In a recent interview with the UCL Law Society’s Silk v. Brief, highlights of which are condensed in the blog post below, he discusses the evolving role of human rights in Europe, and explores the complicated relationship between the UK and the European Convention on Human Rights.
|As President, has your professional relationship with the other members of the court changed significantly? Do you now attempt to find common cause among the presiding judges?
The transition from judge to president of the European Court of Human Rights inevitably means a change in some aspect of professional relations with the other members of the Court. The President is a unique point of reference for judges in relation to certain matters, such as judicial ethics, for example. More generally, it is to the President that judges look, individually or collectively, to support and assist them in their work, to pursue the well-being of the Court and its personnel. . . . In [the Plenary] forum, the President occupies the chair but his voice and his vote are of exactly equal weight to every other judge. There is no judicial hierarchy. . . . Naturally, I endeavour to find ‘common cause’, as you put it, among my fellow judges so that the Grand Chamber gives its best answer to the questions raised in the case. . .