Tag Archive | "United Kingdom"

Mass Incarceration at Home and Decarceration Abroad

Image

Around the world, there are around ten million people in prison at any given time. While the world’s criminal justice systems struggle to ensure access to legal representation, a fair trial, and freedom from torture, some countries have been more successful than others. Other western countries are moving toward decarceration,[1] but politicians in the United States have been slow to recognize the devastating effects of the United States criminal justice system.

In the United States, over the last 40 years there has been incredible growth in the prison population. In 1972, United States prisons contained nearly 170,000 inmates; by 2012, prisons housed 1.5 million inmates. This 705 percent increase resulted from tough on crime laws and an increase in the number of criminalized activities. Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, explains that not only have prison rates increased, they have disproportionately affected people of color, particularly black men. Not only is the United States quickly becoming famous for its “mass incarceration,” as Professor Alexander points out, it has stunted the social and economic wellbeing of low-income communities and communities of color. Ironically, studies have actually found that mass incarceration has not enhanced public safety.

Recently, there has been a shift in public opinion around incarceration. In 2012, a plurality of the United States public believed that too many people were in prison. In an effort to reduce the prison population, last October the Justice Department committed to releasing 6,000 inmates through reducing sentence lengths. President Obama has also commuted the sentences for the most individuals in recent history, a total of 348. Currently, mass incarceration is a leading issue in the presidential race as both republicans and democrats have criticized incarceration rates.

The rate of incarceration in the United States, compared to other nations, is more than five times higher. However, similarly industrialized nations have comparable crime rates.  A fundamental difference is that the United States interprets punishment to mean incapacitation and retribution, whereas other jurisdictions focus on resocialization and rehabilitation.

Germany and the Netherlands are examples of countries that focus on rehabilitating offenders. In the United States, the average rate of incarceration is 716 per 100,000 residents, whereas Germany’s rate is 79 per 100,000 residents, and Netherlands’ rate is 82 per 100,000 residents. Both countries primarily utilize non-custodial sanctions and diversion. Generally, other Western democracies use fines as the primary sanction. Compare this with the United States where 70 percent of convicted offenders are sentenced to a prison term for at least part of the sentence.

The German Prison Act states that the “sole aim of incarceration is to enable prisoners to lead a life of social responsibility free of crime upon release.” While the Netherlands’ 1998 Penitentiary Principles Act focuses on re-socialization. Notably, “prisoners are encouraged to maintain and cultivate relationships with others both within and outside the prison walls.” While prison sentences are utilized in Germany and the Netherlands, the length of prison terms are also generally much shorter than those in the United States. There are also fewer mandatory prison sentences. The United States sentences offenders to lengthy prison terms and makes more use of the death penalty compared to other Western democracies.[2]

While incarcerated, prisoners in Germany and the Netherlands are treated differently than United States prisoners. Because rehabilitation is the primary goal, prisoners are allowed to wear their own cloths, prepare meals, learn job skills, and continue their education. The prisons themselves are designed with a lot of windows, lights, and wide hallways. Prison staff are trained similar to social workers and behavior specialists. Whereas the United States’ imprisonment method is principally punitive. To a degree, the United States’ method has become an American export. The supermax model originated within the United States and by 1999, there were 57 supermaxes in 34 states. This supermax model has now appeared in nine countries, including Brazil, which has one of the fasts growing prison populations. Supermax prisons utilize solitary confinement, largely eliminate common areas, and restrict prisoner interaction.

While Germany and the Netherlands provide a useful example of what the United States could aim for, Finland demonstrates a change theory for decarceration. In the 1950s, Finland had a rate of incarceration of 200 per 100,000. For the time, this was three to four times greater than other Nordic countries and nearly twice the United States’ incarceration rate.[3] Finland experienced a cultural shift toward penal severity, minimum sentencing, and severe sentences for common crimes.[4] By recognizing the limited capabilities of traditional imprisonment, Finland initiated several legislative and policy reforms. Finland’s movement toward decarceration critically relied on an ideological shift. The implemented reforms included reducing penalties, using noncustodial alternatives, and sentencing options designed to reduce the number of offenders sentenced to prison.[5] By introducing more gradient-based sentences and increasing the use of community service sentences, Finland was able to reduce its prison population.

Finally, an issue related to the criminal justice system in the United States, beyond incarceration itself is the collateral consequences of conviction. Professor Alexander reported that these collateral consequences include restrictions on access to social services, housing, employment, and the right to vote. Collateral consequences contribute to the recidivism cycle that also plagues the United States criminal justice system. In Germany and the Netherlands, however, ex-offenders retain their rights to vote and access to certain social services. This is not surprising though, as the United States does not prioritize social services in the same way as other Western countries and spends less on these programs.[6]

Change will not come quickly to the United States criminal justice system, but as Finland demonstrated, change is possible. Incarceration rates in the United States have begun to slow, albeit they are not yet declining.[7] Further, a recent bipartisan publication, with contributors including Vice President Joseph Biden, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz, proposes changes to address the problem of mass incarceration in the United States. In appeal to this attention, the United States should take the steps recommended by the Vera Institute of Justice. First, expand prosecutorial discretion to divert offenders. Second, reduce the reliance on incarceration as a first response and expand the use of community-based sanctions. Third, adapt the disciplinary structure and expand the menu of sanctions. Finally, normalize the conditions within prisons. These steps will require significant dedication to reform; however, it may yet be possible.

____________________________________________________________________________________

[1] Douglas B. Weiss & Doris MacKenzie, A Global Perspective on Incarceration: How an International Focus can Help the United States Reconsider Its Incarceration Rates, 5 Victims & Offenders 268, 270 (2010).

[2] Matthew B. Kugler, Friederike Funk, Judith Braun, Mario Gollwitzer, Aaron C. Kay, & John M. Darley, Differences in Punitiveness Across Three Cultures: A Test of American Exceptionalism in Justice Attitudes, 103 J. of Crim. L. & Criminology 1071, 1074 (2013).

[3] Weiss & MacKenzie, supra note 1, at 275.

[4] Id. at 276.

[5] Id.

[6] Id. at 273.

[7] Id. at 269.

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A scientist works during an IVF process on Aug. 11, 2008.

UK approves law allowing conception of three-parent babies

In a bold and unprecedented move in the House of Commons, 382 Members of Parliament voted in favor of a technique that stops genetic diseases from being passed down from a mother to her child, with 182 members in opposition.  This technique uses the DNA from two women and one man to “create” a baby with altered DNA.  This alteration causes a permanent change in order to prevent a genetic disease from being passed to future generations.  As a last legislative hurdle, the law was approved in the House of Lords on February 24th by a majority of 232.  The introduction of such a law will launch the UK into a new frontier, and the surrounding debate has engendered skepticism and controversy.

The technique, developed in Newcastle, aims to help families who want to have healthy children but are confronted with the obstacle of a genetic disease, such as mitochondrial disease.  An estimated one in 6,500 babies in the UK are thought to develop a mitochondrial disorder, a serious health problem that can lead to heart and liver disease, respiratory problems, muscular dystrophy and blindness. The issue is that defective mitochondria are only passed to the child from the mother, so this technique uses a modified version of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) to supplement the DNA of the two parents with the healthy mitochondria of a donor woman.  Ultimately, the baby would only possess 0.1% of the donor woman’s DNA, and the process would completely eliminate the disease from passing down to future generations.  If the law is passed, around 150 babies could be born each year utilizing this technique.

A scientist works during an IVF process on Aug. 11, 2008.

A scientist works during an IVF process on Aug. 11, 2008.
Photo Credit: Ben Birchall / AP, USAToday

Proponents of the law, which amends the 2008 Human Fertilization and Embryology Act, believe it is an important step onto the frontiers of science and a long-awaited opportunity for families struggling with this issue.  The Public Health Minister Jane Ellison is included in this group, as she believes it is “a bold step for parliament to take, but it is a considered and informed step.”  The law’s supporters believe it falls short of being considered “genetic modification” because the mitochondrial DNA constitutes only 0.054% of a human’s overall DNA and none of the nuclear DNA that actually determines a human’s characteristics and traits.  Those in favor of the law believe it is a wonderful scientific step for the UK in the realm of IVF treatments.

The law is not without opposition, however.  Opponents worry that families attempting the technique will be disappointed and let down because of the technique’s uncertainties should it fail.  Others equate the situation to genetically modifying crops and believe that the approval of this law might create a slippery slope to allowing even further genetic modification of children.  Strong opponents of the law include the Catholic and Anglican Churches in England.  They do not support the law because they believe the technique involves the destruction of embryos.  Others in opposition do not think the science behind the technique has been adequately proven and others argue about where to draw the ethical line, but now that the law has passed, it will still be up to the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority to decide on a case-by-case basis whether or not the treatment can proceed.  If a certain case is approved, the child born will not be able to discover the identity of the “third parent” donor.

Now that the law has passed in the House of Lords, the next step is for the UK fertility regulator to develop and publish licensing rules for evaluating applications to perform this technique.  By early October of 2015 the regulations are set to come into force, and the first babies could be born as soon as next autumn using the new technique.  Critics caution that the law could open up the UK to dangerous precedents, but others applaud the brave new future of scientific discovery.  Time will tell where this path will take the UK and whether or not other countries will follow suit in years to come.

Laura Brodie is a 3L law student at University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Angela Merkel and David Cameron

How Germany Surpassed Great Britain … Economically At Least

In the wake of Prime Minister David Cameron’s call for a voter referendum on Britain’s membership in the EU, new grassroots groups have sprung up supporting a renegotiation of Britain’s EU membership.[1]  While Britain considers removing itself from the EU entirely, Germany has emerged as a powerful leader in the EU.  Some scholars have gone so far as to say that Germany is “keeping Europe afloat.”[2]  What led to Germany’s current power player status is complicated.  Whether it be Germany’s rapid economic growth or German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s personality is anyone’s guess.

Now, as Cyprus repeats the Greek meltdown, it has become clearer that the euro zone has not been able to create a “banking union” in any meaningful sense.[3]  Developing a true banking union is made more difficult by the fact that Germany continues to oppose creating a euro-wide deposit insurance program.[4]

Despite the Greek bailout in 2010, and the follow-up bailout in 2012 (of which Germany was the biggest contributor of funds[5]), the EU has record-high unemployment.[6]  As a result of Germany’s economic influence throughout the EU, it will likely be Merkel who dictates what happens in Cyprus.  While Britain was notably absent from discussions surrounding the creation of an EU banking supervisor, Merkel noted that it was “a big step toward more reliability and confidence in the euro zone.”[7]  This post explores some of the factors that led to Germany’s strong economic position in the EU and what that could mean for Britain in the future.

German Economic Influence

Angela Merkel and David Cameron

And with good reason, too!
(Spectator)

Most people in Germany, even down to the standup comedians, believe that Germany is economically dominant because of their “system of apprenticeships” and commitment to building a society that helps entrepreneurs.[8]   Germany also overhauled the labor market in an effort to hold down costs.[9]  On top of the societal systems, Merkel reminds Germans of Great Britain’s Margaret Thatcher as one who seems to “balance government accounts as though they were a household budget.”[10]  The difference, however, is that Thatcher had the British people’s support for doing so, but Merkel has no democratic mandate.[11]

This system has led to Germany being the only country in the EU with the funds necessary to deal with financial crisis.[12]  The German economic platform has also given Merkel the power to “dictate the terms under which struggling euro zone nations can apply for further credit, eroding the democratic autonomy of the Greek, Italian and Spanish parliaments.”[13]  In 2012, when Merkel approved the second round of bailouts for Greece, she stated: “The risks of turning away from Greece now are incalculable. No one can assess what consequences would arise for the German economy, on Italy, on Spain, the euro zone as a whole and finally for the whole world.”[14]  Despite these admonitions, the tide of approval for Greek bailouts was turning.

Various headlines such as “German money is being thrown away on the bankrupt Greeks” bore out a strong current of German criticism.[15]  Some posit that Germany continues to do provide bailout funds because of their “self-imposed obligation to help build a Europe where the petty nationalisms that had ruined the continent in two world wars could be definitively overcome.”[16]  As stated by Simon Winder, author of Germania: A Personal History of Germans Ancient and Modern: “The tragedy for the Germans is that they viewed the euro as their great, healing gift to the rest of Europe, an act of self-denial in which they cashed in their totemic deutschmark for the continent’s greater good.”[17]

Britain Meanwhile…

Britain continues to extricate itself from the EU and from any sort of indication that they are willing to assist other failing countries.  In the face of calls for Britain to leave the EU altogether and with Cameron seeking re-election, he is unlikely to offer any British assistance that will back British taxpayers into a European Union corner that they do not want to be in.  Pulling away from the EU at this point has left an opening that Germany’s economy has filled.

Where to From Here? Culture v. Economics

The contrast between the economic strength of Germany and the cultural influence of Britain is stark.  While Germany seems devoid of a cultural identity, “Britain is the cultural dynamo of Europe by a million miles.”[18]   What kind of actual power British cultural influence can bring to the EU with a fledgling British economic system remains to be seen.  What is clear, however, is that the world is looking to Germany for economic answers.



[1] Stephen Castle, British Group Backs Renegotiating E.U. Role, The New York Times, April 22, 2013.

[2] Stuart Jeffries, Is Germany too Powerful for Europe?, The Guardian, March 31, 2013.

[3] Hugo Dixon, A Union That Exists in Name Only, The New York Times, March 31, 2013.

[4] Id.

[5] Louise Armitstead, Germany Approves Greek Bail-out but warns Angela Merkel Against Further Help, The Telegraph, Feb. 27, 2012.

[6] David Jolly, Unemployment in Euro Zone Reaches a Record 12%, The New York Times, April 2, 2013.

[7] Raf Casert and Don Melvin, EU Backs Banking Supervisor, Greece Bailout, Yahoo! News, Dec. 13, 2012, available at http://news.yahoo.com/eu-backs-banking-supervisor-greece-bailout-145720588–finance.html.

[8] Stuart Jeffries, Is Germany too Powerful for Europe?, The Guardian, March 31, 2013.

[9] David Jolly, Unemployment in Euro Zone Reaches a Record 12%, The New York Times, April 2, 2013.

[10] Stuart Jeffries, Is Germany too Powerful for Europe?, The Guardian, March 31, 2013.

[11] Id.

[12] Louise Armitstead, Germany Approves Greek Bail-out but warns Angela Merkel Against Further Help, The Telegraph, Feb. 27, 2012.

[13] Stuart Jeffries, Is Germany too Powerful for Europe?, The Guardian, March 31, 2013.

[14] Louise Armitstead, Germany Approves Greek Bail-out but warns Angela Merkel Against Further Help, The Telegraph, Feb. 27, 2012.

[15] Stuart Jeffries, Is Germany too Powerful for Europe?, The Guardian, March 31, 2013.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

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David Cameron and Angela Merkel

Cameron Courts Germany to Discuss Great Britain’s Future in the EU

This is a follow up post to my prior post: David Cameron Wants Out of the EU: What are the Risks and Rewards?

Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, arrived in Berlin last week to engage in talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The purpose? Demonstrate “the close relationship between the two center-right leaders and a discussion of Britain’s future with the European Union.”[1]  Earlier this year Cameron announced that if his Conservative Party were to be reelected in 2015, he would either “reduce British entanglement with the EU – or allow his people to vote in a referendum to leave the bloc all together.”[2]

David Cameron and Angela Merkel

Sitting down to discuss their differences.
(Irish Examiner)

In the months following his announcement, Cameron has not let up on his calls for a re-evaluation of Britain’s membership in the EU. Just last week, he stated that “British support for the EU was ‘wafer thin’”[3] and that he would like to see member states given the right to opt of some EU laws.   Cameron’s conclusion that Britain’s placement in the EU has lost much of its utility comes on the heels of Britain’s weak economic data[4] and his claims that the EU has “sometimes overreached itself with directive and interventions and interference.”[5]

According to Cameron, “Europe will be more successful if it has the strength of flexibility rather than the weakness of inflexibility.  I think the best outcome for Britain is our membership of a reformed European Union.”[6] This signals a slight change in Cameron’s phrasing of the EU/Britain relationship. Previously, Cameron seemed determined to get Britain out of the EU altogether; now, however, he has started to focus more on reforming the EU.[7]  It is likely that the backlash from both France and Germany have tempered Cameron’s hardliner approach.

Great Britain and Germany Face Off Over Competing Views of the EU

While Cameron and Merkel are making the weekend into a family affair by bringing along their spouses, the relationship between the two has not always been so cordial.[8]  In 2009, Cameron pulled “his Conservatives out of the centre-right bloc in the European Parliament to which Merkel’s Christian Democrats belong.”[9]  Cameron’s previous visit to Berlin in 2011 came on the heels of a Cameron speech where the central message was “less Europe” and Merkel’s speech, given on the same day, emphasized the need for “more Europe.”[10]  Granted, Britain was attempting to maintain its distance from the euro-crisis, but Merkel scoffed at the idea that Britain should still have political pull in the EU.[11]

In March 2012, Britain and the Czech Republic were the only two Eurozone states that refused to sign a new fiscal treaty. While Cameron was complaining that his ideas were being ignored, Merkel described the treaty as a “great leap” and “a first step towards stability and political union.”[12]

Even more recently, Cameron’s plan “to defuse the Tory civil war over Europe by winning back powers from the EU has been thrown into doubt after Germany said it would prefer to solve the Eurozone’s problems without a new European treaty.”[13] Germany’s opposition to Cameron’s plan adds to the already sharp criticism pointed at Great Britain by France, which has come “out against opening up the EU rulebook again in the timescale envisaged by Cameron.”[14]

At Stake for Both Sides

Cameron’s visit is aimed to reduce the chatter surrounding Britain’s touchy relationship with the EU throughout the Eurozone.  Recall that shortly after Cameron’s referendum announcement, France commented that Britain could not have an “a la carte” attitude towards the EU,[15] and “German officials said Britain could not ‘cherry-pick’ the terms of membership.”[16] While German officials are not encouraged by Cameron’s desire to roll back EU powers, they were not surprised.[17]

If Britain leaves the EU, many argue that “France’s relative influence would increase as would that of the southern ‘Club Med’ nations, which tend to be less committed to free markets and budgetary rigor . . . . If Merkel [and Germany lose] Britain, then her game of politics of options”[18] will cease. The question really becomes what price Germany is willing to pay to keep Britain in the EU due to the fact that Britain is an “important German ally, especially on free trade issues.”[19]

The consensus is that Merkel needs Cameron: whether it be for free trade policies that require approval of all 27 EU member states, or on broad sweeping free trade policies.[20]

Some commentators have hinted that Germany and Britain could come to common ground on the issue of reforming the EU, but the depth of that reformation is likely going to be more limited than any of Cameron’s supporters envision.[21]  Germany is unlikely to budge on allowing Britain to opt out of more policy areas or give up “on the core values of European integration, a much stronger political idea on the Continent than in Britain.”[22] Tobias Etzold, an expert on European integration with the German Institute for International Security Affairs, warns: “It is important that Great Britain understands that possible alternative to full membership in the EU would hurt them more than it would hurt the remaining members.”[23]

Cameron would be wise to remember that just this month Merkel and French president, Francois Hollande, “snubbed a UK exercise to assess the impact of EU laws and regulations on Britain and the rest of Europe.”[24]

Conclusion

The topics that are officially slated for discussion between Cameron and Merkel range from the forthcoming G8 summit to the situation in Syria.  The highlight, however, is that the two leaders are scheduled to talk over “all aspects” of EU reformation.[25]

It is interesting to note that at the same time that Cameron seeks to increase Britain’s independence from the EU, he also is fiercely against Scottish independence.[26]  While Cameron may have hundreds of years of history to bolster his argument that Scottish independence is bad for the United Kingdom, one cannot help but be struck by the juxtaposition.

Treana Hickey is a third year law student at the University of Denver and is a Staff Editor on the Denver Journal of International Law & Policy.


[1] Melissa Eddy and Stephen Castle, In Cameron and Merkel Visit, a Chance to Discuss British Role in Europe, The New York Times, April 12, 2013.

[2] Andrew Higgins, Europe is Edgy as Cameron Seeks to Loosen Ties, The New York Times, Jan. 23, 2013.

[3] Stephen Brown, Merkel, Cameron to Bring Families Together in Castle Outside Berlin, Yahoo! News, April 12, 2013, http://news.yahoo.com/merkel-cameron-bring-families-together-castle-outside-berlin-143320632.html.

[4] Carsten Volkery, Opposing Visions of Europe: Tensions Ahead of David Cameron’s Berlin Visit, Spiegel Online, Nov. 17, 2011, http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/opposing-visions-of-europe-tensions-ahead-of-david-cameron-s-berlin-visit-a-798399.html.

[5] Andrew Sparrow, Cameron and Merkel to Discuss EU Reform in Germany, The Guardian, April 12, 2013.

[6] Cameron to Press for EU Reform During Berlin Visit, Europe Online Magazine, April 12, 2013, http://en.europeonline-magazine.eu/cameron-longs-for-eu-reform_275521.html.

[7] Andrew Sparrow, Cameron and Merkel to Discuss EU Reform in Germany, The Guardian, April 12, 2013.

[8] Melissa Eddy and Stephen Castle, In Cameron and Merkel Visit, a Chance to Discuss British Role in Europe, The New York Times, April 12, 2013.

[9] Stephen Brown, Merkel, Cameron to Bring Families Together in Castle Outside Berlin, Yahoo! News, April 12, 2013, http://news.yahoo.com/merkel-cameron-bring-families-together-castle-outside-berlin-143320632.html.

[10] Carsten Volkery, Opposing Visions of Europe: Tensions Ahead of David Cameron’s Berlin Visit, Spiegel Online, Nov. 17, 2011, http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/opposing-visions-of-europe-tensions-ahead-of-david-cameron-s-berlin-visit-a-798399.html.

[11] Id.

[12] EU summit: All but two leaders sign fiscal treaty, BBC News, March 2, 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17230760.

[13] Toby Helm, Germany and France ‘will block David Cameron’s plan for a new EU treaty’, The Guardian, April 6, 2013.

[14] Id.

[15] France’s Hollande rejects ‘a la carte’ attitude to EU, BBC News, Feb. 5, 2013,  

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21336397.

[16] Melissa Eddy and Stephen Castle, In Cameron and Merkel Visit, a Chance to Discuss British Role in Europe, The New York Times, April 12, 2013.

[17] Stephen Brown, Merkel, Cameron to Bring Families Together in Castle Outside Berlin, Yahoo! News, April 12, 2013, http://news.yahoo.com/merkel-cameron-bring-families-together-castle-outside-berlin-143320632.html.

[18] Melissa Eddy and Stephen Castle, In Cameron and Merkel Visit, a Chance to Discuss British Role in Europe, The New York Times, April 12, 2013.

[19] Stephen Brown, Merkel, Cameron to Bring Families Together in Castle Outside Berlin, Yahoo! News, April 12, 2013, http://news.yahoo.com/merkel-cameron-bring-families-together-castle-outside-berlin-143320632.html.

[20] Carsten Volkery, Opposing Visions of Europe: Tensions Ahead of David Cameron’s Berlin Visit, Spiegel Online, Nov. 17, 2011, http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/opposing-visions-of-europe-tensions-ahead-of-david-cameron-s-berlin-visit-a-798399.html.

[21] Melissa Eddy and Stephen Castle, In Cameron and Merkel Visit, a Chance to Discuss British Role in Europe, The New York Times, April 12, 2013.

[22] Id.

[23] Id.

[24] Andrew Sparrow, Cameron and Merkel to Discuss EU Reform in Germany, The Guardian, April 12, 2013.

[25] Id.

[26] John F. Burns and Alan Cowell, Cameron Details Arguments Against Scottish Independence, The New York Times, Feb. 16, 2012.

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David Cameron Wants Out of the EU: What are the Risks and Rewards?

The Treaty of Maastricht established the European Union (“the EU”) under its current name in 1993.[1]  The Treaty included a Social Chapter that laid “down EU policies on workers’ rights and other social issues.”[2]  The Treaty also established an economic and monetary union, which required the Member States to (1) coordinate their economic policies, (2) provide multilateral surveillance of the coordination, and (3) be subject to financial and budgetary discipline.[3]  The objective of monetary policy was to ensure the common currency’s “stability thanks to price stability and respect for the market economy.”[4]

Great Britain, however, has never adopted the EU’s single currency, opted out of the Treaty’s Social Chapter, “does not participate in Europe’s Schengen passport-free travel zone,” and “announced last year that it would opt out of a range of justice and security policy areas.”[5]

More specifically, Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, has voiced his frustration with the EU’s economic policies.[6]  Cameron has stated: “In the name of social protection, the EU has promoted unnecessary measures that impose burdens on businesses and government, and can destroy jobs.”[7]

Can't pick and choose these stars. (Borsen)

Can’t pick and choose these stars.
(Borsen)

Just a year after his very public criticisms, on January 23, 2013, Cameron announced that if his Conservative Party were to be reelected in 2015, he would either “reduce British entanglement with the EU – or allow his people to vote in a referendum to leave the bloc all together.”[8]

The response to Cameron’s announcement has been mixed globally.  In the Eurozone, however, the criticism has come quick.  French President Francois Hollande “told the European Parliament there can be no ‘a la carte’ attitude to the EU.  [ . . . ] National interests, he said in Strasbourg, risked taking precedence over the interests of the EU.”[9]  Hollande also noted that either Europe “must move forward together [. . . ] or we will not move forward at all.”[10]

This first look at the potential impacts of Cameron’s announcement focuses on Great Britain’s current role in the European Union and a few of the political costs that may not be worth any of Great Britain’s solo gains.

A General Overview of the EU

The main governing body, the European Commission, is the only body that can propose new laws for the EU.[11]  The Commission is made up of 27 Commissioners—one for each EU member country.[12]  The Commissioners are appointed by their home countries and are not popularly elected.[13]   “The number of Commissioners will be reduced in 2014, so that not every member-state will have its own Commissioner.”[14]

European citizens, however, directly elect the Members of European Parliament (“MEPs”).[15]  There are a total 736 MEPs, while only 72 are from the United Kingdom.[16]  According to the BBC, the MEPs as whole have the power to block, scrutinize, and change the laws proposed by the Commission, as well as approve or disapprove of the European Union’s budget.[17]

Finally, the EU Council of Ministers is where the national governments of all 27 Member states come together to debate and vote on both domestic and foreign policy.  In 2014, “Parliament will be put on an equal footing with the Council for most issues, including the crucial areas of the budget and agriculture, under a system dubbed the ‘co-decision.’”[18]

A recent New York Times article noted that while officially decisions are made by national governments in the complicated way described above, “[i]n practice, countries strike informal agreements and compromises, often trading support on one issue for a reciprocal agreement, sometimes in an unrelated area of policy.”[19]

Europe, You Stay Over There. (Mirror)

Europe, You Stay Over There.
(Mirror)

Great Britain’s Current Role

It is no secret that Britain has had a tenuous relationship with the EU despite its status as a Member State; even the giant piece of art that depicts each of the member countries represented on the EU Council of Ministers pokes fun at Great Britain by leaving the country off the mural.[20]

The Potential Gains & Losses

The following chart, originally compiled by BBC’s Brian Wheeler and Laurence Peter, lays out the arguments on both sides of the debate over Britain’s future relationship with the EU.[21] Only arguments pertinent to this posting remain and others have been removed.

Key Question

Better off out

Better off in

Are there any viable options for Britain leaving the EU? Yes. Britain could negotiate an “amicable divorce”, but retain strong trading links with EU nations. . . .Some favour the Swiss model, based on bi-lateral treaties with the EU rather than membership of the European Economic Area (EEA), a kind of “EU-lite”.Others say the EEA/Norway model would be easier as the UK is already a member of the free trade area. 

Some argue for a clean break from the EU, with the UK free to make trade deals with nations around the word.

No. An “amicable divorce” is a pipe dream.France, Germany and other leading EU nations would never allow Britain a “pick and mix” approach to the bloc’s rules.Norway and Switzerland have to abide by many EU rules without any influence over how they are formed.”If we weren’t in there helping write the rules they would be written without us – the biggest supporter of open markets and free trade – and we wouldn’t like the outcome,” argued David Cameron in a speech last year. 

If Britain went for a clean break from the EU, its exports would be subject to EU export tariffs and would still have to meet EU production standards.

 

What would be the impact on British jobs? With small and medium-sized firms freed from EU regulation, there could be a jobs boom. More than 90% of the UK economy is not involved in trade with the EU, yet still bears the burden of these rules, says the Bruges Group. The Eurosceptic think tank claims pulling out of the EU but staying in the EEA would create 1 million British jobs. Millions of jobs could be lost as global manufacturers move to low-cost countries within in the EU. Britain’s foreign-owned car industry would shift into the EU and sectors linked to membership such as aerospace would suffer. Airbus production could move to France and Germany, pro-EU commentators claim.
Would Britain save money?The UK paid £8.9bn into EU budget in 2010/11, says the Treasury, out of £706bn in public spending. Yes. It would save billions in membership fees, and end the “hidden tariff” paid by UK taxpayers when goods are exported to the EU, caused by red tape, waste, fraud and other factors.A study by UKIP MEP Gerard Batten claims the total cost to the UK of EU membership, when all these factors are taken into account, is £65.7bn a year. No. The UK’s contribution to the EU budget is a drop in the ocean compared with the benefits to business of being in the single market, says pressure group Business for New Europe.It could be costly for UK exporters if they face EU legal arguments against UK standards – there could be a lot more court cases.
What would be the effect on trade? “We will continue to trade with Europe, as part of an association of nation states,” says Eurosceptic Tory MP Bill Cash.The UK would also be free to establish bi-lateral trade agreements with fast-growing export markets such as China, Singapore, Brazil, Russia and India through the World Trade Organisation. The EU is the UK’s main trading partner, worth more than £400bn a year, or 52% of the total trade in goods and services.”The UK is always likely to be better positioned to secure beneficial trade deals as a member of the EU than as an individual and isolated player,” says Labour’s Europe spokeswoman Emma Reynolds.
Would the UK’s influence in the world change?  The UK would remain a key part of Nato and the UN Security Council and a nuclear power, with a powerful global voice in its own right. The Bruges Group wants an end to the “discredited” principle that Britain acts as a transatlantic bridge between the US and Europe, saying it should make self-reliance its guiding principle. Stripped of influence in Brussels, Berlin and Paris, Britain would find itself increasingly ignored by Washington and sidelined on big transnational issues such as the environment, security and trade.America and other allies want Britain to remain in the EU. The UK risks becoming a maverick, isolated state if it leaves.
Would taxes change? The EU has limited power over tax, which is largely a matter for national governments. The exception is VAT which has bands agreed at the EU level. Outside the EU, the UK would potentially have more flexibility. “Tax avoidance and evasion will reach crippling levels as our economy becomes increasingly wholly owned by foreign multinationals that make tax avoidance in Britain central to their business strategy,” claims The Observer in a recent editorial.
Would Britain’s legal system, democratic institutions and law-making process change? It would be a major shot in the arm for British democracy as the Westminster parliament regained its sovereignty and re-connected with voters.The country would be free from the European Arrest Warrant and other law and order measures, but would still have to deal with the European Court of Human Rights, which is separate from the EU. Britons benefit from EU employment laws and social protections, which would be stripped away. Withdrawal from the European Arrest Warrant could mean delays for the UK in extraditing suspects from other European countries; and the UK already has some opt-outs from EU labour law, including the Working Time Directive.

Conclusion

As EU budget talks heat up, many will be monitoring Britain’s bargaining effectiveness with Cameron’s comments looming over any budgetary talks. Since Cameron has sent the signal that Britain is not interested in any crucial positions within the EU, Britain may have already set itself up to have less bargaining power in the future.

Treana Hickey is a 3L at the Sturm College of Law and a Staff Editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy 



[1] Treaty of Maastricht on European Union, http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/institutional_affairs/treaties/treaties_maastricht_en.htm

[2] Profile: European Union, BBC News, Nov. 30, 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-18788906.

[3] Treaty of Maastricht on European Union, http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/institutional_affairs/treaties/treaties_maastricht_en.htm

[4] Id.

[5] Stephen Castle, Critical Stance on Europeans May Jeopardize Britain’s Influence, The New York Times DealBook, Ed. Andrew Ross Sorkin, Jan. 22, 2013.

[6] Id.

[7] Richard Fletcher, Davos 2012: David Cameron’s ‘stop tinkering’ call wins Britain few friends in Europe, The Telegraph, Jan. 26, 2013.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financetopics/davos/9041508/Davos-2012-David-Camerons-stop-tinkering-call-wins-Britain-few-friends-in-Europe.html.

[8] Andrew Higgins, Europe is Edgy as Cameron Seeks to Loosen Ties, The New York Times, Jan. 23, 2013.

[9] France’s Hollande rejects ‘a la carte’ attitude to EU, BBC News, Feb. 5, 2013,  

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21336397.

[10] Gavin Hewitt, France Takes Aim at Britain, BBC News, Feb, 5, 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21338499

[11] BBC News- Inside the European Commission, BBC News Video, April 28, 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8021647.stm.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Profile: European Union, BBC News, Nov. 30, 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-18788906.

[15] BBC News- How the European Parliament Works, BBC News Video, April 28, 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8021660.stm.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Profile: European Union, BBC News, Nov. 30, 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-18788906.

[19] Stephen Castle, Critical Stance on Europeans May Jeopardize Britain’s Influence, The New York Times DealBook, Ed. Andrew Ross Sorkin, Jan. 22, 2013.

[20] Profile: European Union, BBC News, Nov. 30, 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-18788906.  

[21] Brian Wheeler and Laurence Peter, The UK and EU: Better off out or in?, Jan. 16, 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20448450.

Posted in 1TVFA Posts, 2Featured Articles, Treana HickeyComments (1)

News Post: Hackers intercept US-UK hacking call

Anonymous Mask

On Friday, the hacking group Anonymous posted on YouTube a recording of a confidential conversation between the FBI and London’s Metropolitan Police. Anonymous also released a copy of an email sent to the invited participant of the conference call. The email, sent January 13, contained a single code to be used by participants to gain access to the call. Along with the FBI and Metropolitan Police, members of agencies in Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Germany, and Sweden also received the email invitation.

An official from the FBI informed the press that Anonymous had not hacked any bureau system, but had probably accessed the email account of one of the call invitees. The FBI is currently carrying out a criminal investigation of the matter.

During the 16-minute-long call, which is said to have occurred on January 17 of this year, investigators from the FBI and Metropolitan Police discussed the cases of Ryan Clear and Jake Davis, two British teens who have been arrested and are charged with hacking. Both teens are wanted in the U.S.. The detectives also discussed several suspected hackers, whose names were bleeped from the recording by Anonymous. One British official referred to a hacking suspect as “a 15 year-old kid who’s basically just doing this all for attention and is a bit of an idiot.”

Since 2010 there has been an ongoing international criminal investigation into the group Anonymous. That year the group attacked Master Card, PayPal, and other websites that stopped collecting money for the organization WikiLeaks. Investigations are also underway into Lutzec, Antisec, and other hacking groups suspected of hacking the Central Intelligence Agency, Britain’s Serious Organized Crime Agency, Japan’s Sony Corporation, and Mexican government sites.

Anonymous, whose members don white Guy Fawkes masks for public demonstrations and leave the image on websites they hack, accuse the organizations they attack as having abandoned justice, freedom, and democracy. The group includes members from the US, UK, Ireland, and Germany. Many of the suspected hackers are young people and teenagers.

The group has also been linked to attacks on the Justice department; the Church of Scientology; the music industry; and Neal Puckett and Haytham Faraj, the lawyers who represented Sergeant Wutench in the Haditha case.

Following Friday’s posting of the FBI-Metropolitan police phone conversation, Anonymous attacked a Boston police website and took over a site belonging to Greece’s justice ministry.

Posted in 1TVFA Posts, 2Featured Articles, DJILP Staff, Laura WoodComments (0)


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