Danny Nicol is a Professor of public law at the University of Westminster and he serves on the editorial board of the journal “Public Law”. He has written extensively on the European Union, the World Trade Organisation and the European Convention of Human rights. He is also co-founder of the campaign group “The Full Brexit”.
East &West: You published an online story in the wake of the UK Supreme Court’s decision in which you claimed that the Judges were somehow seeking to obstruct Brexit out of an elite class interest. To many on the left such an idea would come as a shock, particularly as many view the Remain Vote campaign as being the quintessential struggle against the elite. How can we ascertain which side is seeking to protect an elite?
Danny Nicol: One can ascertain ‘which side is seeking to protect an elite’ by asking whether a supranational agreement protects private property and outlaws democratic socialist economic policies.
E&W: How did the left ever come to support the neoliberal project?
DN: The left came to support neoliberalism after Mrs Thatcher established neoliberal hegemony in the 1980s. See my The Full Brexit article on how the Labour Left capitulated.
E&W: Your field of expertise is public law, EU law and human rights, additionally you have written extensively on the World Trade Organisation. Is it right to conclude that the overarching structure of global governance is basically designed to maintain the capitalist status quo? And if so what are the consequences for democracy?
DN: Yes, the overarching structure of global governance is indeed designed to maintain the capitalist status quo. What is interesting is that this supranational structure is incompatible with national democracy, which still has great legitimacy among the people.
E&W: Is this global structure effectively a form of colonialism, designed to protect Western hegemony?
DN: I would leave the colonialism issue to academics with greater expertise with that concept.
E&W: Is the claim that parliament is sovereign in the wake of the Supreme Court decision on the prorogation of parliament not being economical with the truth, then it ensures that the ECJ still has primacy i.e. parliament is ipso facto subservient to the EU?
DN: In theory Parliament is sovereign since it could always repeal the European Communities Act but in practical day-to-day terms courts must give priority to EU law, which is why I ‘went to town’ on the Supreme Court’s emphasis on the practical dimension in my piece.
E&W: The Benn Act ensures that the Prime minister must ask the EU for an extension, however does such a loophole present the government with an opportunity to leave the EU on the 31st of October without a deal? The EU after all requires that all member states must agree to the extension, therefore the UK could veto its own request?
DN: Whether the Benn Act contains loopholes is untested ground. The UK however cannot veto an extension in the Council of the EU. The Treaty on European Union forbids that, I think.
E&W: At the recent Labour conference they voted to abolish private schools, but also the establishment of a state run drug company that would manufacture generics so that medication is affordable for all. In view of everything discussed above are such policies viable?
DN: Abolition of private schools conflicts with the European Convention on Human Rights’ right of parents over education. That right is also part of EU law by dint of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The state run drug company would probably fall foul of EU control of State Aids.
E&W: If not, has the party mislead people or are they clueless?
DN: The Labour Party is in denial about its policies violating Britain’s supranational obligations.
E&W: How has the left failed to present its argument, that only Brexit can provide for radical change both at home and indeed across Europe?
DN: The anti-EU Left is not making much headway because of this state of denial. I also suspect there is a certain general indifference among Labour Party members about policy, in that the Labour Party members are primarily concerned with having a Labour government because (in a very general way) it would in their view be an improvement (even a mild one) on a Conservative one in terms of equality and the welfare state. I suspect that they do not feel strongly about most policies and have something of a “fan club” attitude to their leadership.
E&W: Danny Nicol thank you very much for the interview