By Mark Davies,
UKIP Manchester Treasurer
I was fortunate to have been able to study History at University, so for some time have been aware of the uniqueness of our country, the fact that we have not been subdued by a hostile invasion in over a thousand years is based on something. Our unparalleled success over hundreds of years as a global trading nation and leader of global commerce does not come out of the blue. Our awe inspiring and unrivalled history of invention, development and innovation in the evolution of the modern world where, despite being only 22nd in the world by population we are 2nd in the world by number of Nobel prizes is not just a fluke. These and many other fantastic achievements have combined over the passage of time to produce citizens with a unique outlook on the world, they are industrious, inventive, adventurous, argumentative, determined, even handed and courageous. This has been the British way for 100`s of years.
There are countless examples of this throughout our history, a prime example where we saw this displayed was in the Napoleonic wars. Now, France and Great Britain have very similar sized populations, in the low 60 millions , in 1800, Great Britain’s population was around 10 million while France had a population of over 30 million ! Our navy, our principal defence, was substantially smaller than that of our continental superpower enemy and her allies. The vessels were basically the same (many of the ships in the British Navy were originally captured French warships), their ships generally had more cannons than ours and the individual practical skills of the sailors were comparable. What was different was our attitudes and beliefs. Our navy encouraged initiative, recognised intelligent pragmatism and embraced a level of meritocracy unparalleled for the time and then backed it up with a training regime that institutionalised excellence. This was our secret to success against a much larger enemy with substantially greater resources.
I would therefore contend, that what marks us as different is our culture, temperament and attitudes. Underpinning and intertwined with that is our legal system. A system that can trace its origins back to the Anglo Saxon shire courts and has evolved alongside us since then.
It is fair to say that throughout the world, where the rule of law exists, there are 1 of 2 primary legal systems in operation, Common/Case Law and Continental/Civil Law. In the UK we have a legal system based on a Common Law, in Continental Europe, Civil Law is the basis of their legal systems. Having a different basis for your laws has never been anything other than just a cost of doing business, when applied on a national scale, on an international scale though, as with the EU, it is yet another area that shows the MADNESS of “ever closer union” !
There is much debate as what all the differences are and the relative merits of each approach, however interesting that debate is, the fact remains that our current legal system is one that is based on common law. Changing to a Continental legal system would be vastly expensive, disruptive and disadvantageous to us commercially, whilst we would find that many of its basic principles challenged our very beliefs as British citizens. The table below puts together what I understand to be the basic differences between the two :-
|CIVIL/CONTINENTAL LAW||COMMON/CASE LAW|
|Consists of codified rules set by legislation||Consists of more general rules set by precedence and evolution|
|Judges investigate then interpret the law, often involving law professors views as to theoretical points||Judges are neutral arbiters between the defence and prosecution|
|Generally slow reacting, dependent on legislatures having drafted laws well. The execution of the law can vary as it can be reinterpreted in every new case||Pragmatic, predictable, commercially flexible and quick|
|No pre-discovery of evidence||Pre-discovery of evidence|
|The Law says what is legal||The Law says what is illegal|
These are just a few of the principal differences between the two systems of law. It is fair to say that there inevitably has been some convergence, the modern world would be a more difficult place to do business if that were not the case. However, it is the great unspoken truth at Westminster that the UK has had, and continues to receive, ever increasing levels of EU regulations to codify and apply because that is how the Continental legal system operates.
The commercial success of the “Anglosphere” is fundamentally underpinned by our legal system, for good or bad. It reflects our national culture and character and is part of what makes us British, mess with it and you diminish our edge. In the end we need to recognise that these are fundamentally different philosophies.