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Thursday, July 17, 2014

UK loses human rights in 2 days; why I research in Brussels on net neutrality

I have given up trying to explain to fellow academics (even constitutional lawyers and human rights lawyers) why I spend my time studying the European institutions not the London ones. This week provided a case study.
The European Parliament on Tuesday elected the President of the European Commission. For all his flaws, he does at least intend to appoint a 'digital' Commission, which will have to support some version of net neutrality. The arguments are public and well attended. Members vote using "buttons", a new fangled 19th century technology...
The European institutions have finally acceded to the European Convention on Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. The European Court of Justice is haltingly starting to incorporate fundamental rights into its decisions, not least in striking down the disproportionate blanket retention of data in a rushed 2006 Directive railroaded through the European Council by New Labour Britain.
Back in London, the Mother of Parliaments (sic) has slept through the Snowden revelations about Tempora and other programmes. On Thursday last week, the main political parties agreed to rush emergency legislation through Parliament, published in detail on Monday, and now law. Yes, that's right, it is already the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act of 2014. It was voted through by shouting 'aye' or 'no', and whipping members through doors at either end of the chamber if the noises were loud enough in opposition. No, I am not joking.
It extends UK law to cover webmail from anywhere in the world. Yes, that is an appalling precedent for other countries.
I signed a letter with other academics that was featured in the press, and has received about 15,000 views on Slideshare and other  places. Today I had to refuse an interview by CCTV because how could I explain to the audience of Chinese dictators how this UK Parliament compares to their own? It is government by decree in London in 2014.
That's why I choose to research the European institutions. In a hyper-power world, they at least act as some check on the Anglo-Saxon corporate-political institutions and their 'Government House' secrecy and lying. See Australia for what can happen without that check.
Parliamentary democracy is a great idea - as Tom Paine told us, we should try it some time, if not in England, then the United States. If not there, then France. If not there, then Brussels?

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