Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Magna Carta and Civil Liberties

A quickie to try and clear up a confusion I’ve seen on a few blogs around the place who seem to think that Magna Carta guarantees British (well, English) people certain freedoms:

The Magna Carta “rights” thing is a complete myth. It never granted anyone other than a few barons any liberties – the attempt to argue that it did began in the 17th century with Sir Edward Coke, and was expanded upon by the Parliamentarians to justify their entirely illegal revolt against the King. Even if it did grant any rights, hardly any of it remains in force.

In fact, there are not, nor ever have been, any guaranteed rights in this country. Not until we signed up to the UN, that is. The way the English constitution works (Scotland is rather different) ensures that nothing can possibly be guaranteed within the nation state itself – only external obligations can compel our government to abide by what many consider to be basic human rights obligations. There is not, nor ever has been, anything in English law that can secure civil liberties.

(Oh, and an additional problem? Legally speaking, any attempt to introduce a codified constitution granting inviolable legal rights to the people would itself be unconstitutional, and therefore illegal and easily repealed by any later government that wished to… The only way to ensure certain rights is to sign up to strict external obligations to force the national government to abide by set rules of conduct – one of the benefits we would have got had the now dead EU constitution been ratified and put into force.)