Monday, 27 April 2009

Sharia law is coming. Oh, no, it isn't

The Daily Mail's story EU judges want Sharia law applied in British courts gives the paper a chance to do two of its favourite things: bash Europe and suggest Islam is going to take over the UK.

The problem is, as you might expect, is that the story isn't very accurate.

As the Mail sees it, 'an EU plan calls for family courts across Europe to hear cases using the laws of whichever country the couple involved have close links to'. And of course, they suggest this means Saudi Arabia, although reasonable people might assume this is more aimed at people from other European countries who have freely moved to other parts of the EU.

Well, firstly, the so-called 'Rome III' is only draft regulation. Secondly, Rome III is not even new but been floating around for several years. Thirdly, the UK government opted out of Rome III is November 2006.

Indeed, in a letter from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department for Constitutional Affairs, Baroness Ashton said:

The Commission has, however, brought forward no evidence to demonstrate that this is a real problem, and the Government remains to be satisfied that such rules are genuinely necessary.

The Centre for Social Justice report on which the Mail's story is based reveals all this. To quote the key passages (from pages 15-16):

There was a consultation and the UK, unusual among EU countries, had the power to opt out and did so. Subsequently a couple of other European Union countries who always only apply local law, emboldened by the UK approach, indicated that they were also unhappy with this new legislation, even though they did not have an opt out power.

The consequence is that the European Union has temporarily shelved its plans to impose applicable law on all European Union countries. Nevertheless Brussels has made it clear that it wants to review the position and still seeks to impose applicable law wherever possible. The UK must therefore be ready to deal with this proposed change in the law.

To repeat: the European Union has temporarily shelved its plans to impose applicable law.

The Mail does admit in its final paragraph that 'least nine EU states - not including the UK - are said to want to push ahead with the Rome III plan'. Said to? Rather vague, and the fact that the UK retains its opt out means this goes into the Shit that's never gonna happen category.

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