Weekly Update 17 June 2022
Weekly Update 17 June 2022
International law is the subject of one of the eight Rule of Law principles in Tom Bingham's The Rule of Law (2010). Lord Bingham argued that the Rule of Law "requires compliance by the state with its obligations in international law as in national law". He devoted a chapter of his book to this principle, in which the most controversial issue discussed was the 2003 Iraq war, perhaps reflecting the fact that the UK's basis for participating in the US-led invasion continued to be hotly debated for years afterwards.
Today, unfortunately, we are faced with a plethora of Government initiatives that raise questions about compliance with the UK's international obligations. In just one week, we have had controversies in three distinct areas. First came the publication of a Bill that would "exclude" the operation of many parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol. The second incident included Cabinet ministers declaring that future legislation would authorise the UK to defy interim rulings of the European Court of Human Rights after one such decision played a role in the halting of this week's attempt to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda. In a third development, the Prime Minister's ethics adviser, Lord Geidt, resigned, writing that he found himself in an "impossible and odious" situation in relation to planned measures which risked a deliberate breach of the Ministerial Code. In an exchange of letters, the Prime Minister stated that he had asked Lord Geidt's advice on a plan which "would be in line with our domestic law but might be seen to conflict with our obligations under the WTO", in relation to certain industrial tariffs.
Bingham Centre members are actively engaged in all these areas of law. Dr Ronan Cormacain was quoted in the Guardian on the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, and published two longer pieces on it, one an analysis of the Government's claimed defence of "necessity" in international law, and the other a wider assessment of whether provisions in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties could provide a legal off-ramp for the UK to depart from the Protocol.
The issue of the UK's participation in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is one of our on-going areas of focus as the UK's implementation of the ECHR has been called into question by Government proposals to replace the Human Rights Act 1998 with a new Bill of Rights. This week, Katie Lines published a blog "Invoking Subsidiarity to Weaken ECHR Protection in the UK". Katie identifies the misuse of the ECHR doctrine of subsidiarity in Government proposals which would in fact weaken the ways in which the UK Parliament and courts currently provide first-line protection to ECHR rights, as the doctrine of subsidiarity requires. Our Director, Murray Hunt spoke at an event on Human Rights Leadership: Priorities and Concerns for Scotland. At the moment, the Scottish proposals suggest an encouraging direction for a more expansive and internationalist approach to human rights protection.
In the area of WTO law, one of the Bingham Centre's senior researchers has organised two high-level BIICL events reflecting on global issues, including a strong revival of multilateral approaches at the recently concluded 12th Ministerial Conference of the WTO, as well as innovative trade law strategies to combat climate change. In the upcoming section of this Update, we bring you news of two BIICL events organised by Dr Julinda Beqiraj, Maurice Wohl Senior Fellow in European Law at BIICL: Global Governance at a Crossroads: Finding Solutions to Challenges Facing the Multilateral Trade System (29th June); and 22nd BIICL Annual WTO Conference. Climate Change: Border Carbon Adjustment (BCA) Approaches and the WTO (15th July). During the coming weeks the Centre for International Law at BIICL will run a number of events that may be of interest to readers wishing to engage more deeply with international law. In particular, a new two-day intensive course on Foundations of Public International Law, which is available in online and in-person formats on 20th-21st June, will feature topics including the principles of treaty law embodied in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties and the provisions of the International Law Commission's Articles on State Responsibility that are essential for an in-depth understanding of current debates about the Northern Ireland Protocol.
This Update also brings you news of the Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre, which submitted evidence to the Director of Labour Market Enforcement on its strategy for addressing non-compliance in work contexts.
Finally, the upcoming events section includes a reminder of next week's State of the Constitution conference (23rd - 24th June), organised by the UCL Constitution Unit in partnership with the Bingham Centre and other UK organisations. The conference subject could not be timely.
You can read the whole Weekly Update here.