Brexiteers dream, one imagines, of waking up on June 24th to a land free of alien interference and pesky laws made by Johnny Foreigner, where we can decide who is entitled to have human rights, eat all the bendy bananas we like, and raise a glass of English ale in a toast to Magna Carta, God bless her.
Not quite. There is great concern about the effect on our civil liberties and human rights a Brexit would have, particularly where the debate has gone toxic on migrants. But a vote to leave the EU would have no statutory effect on our national and international human rights and responsibilities. Getting out of those requires more: a repeal of the Human Rights Act, resignation from the Council of Europe, and reneging on our signature of the European Convention on Human Rights.
What Brexit would achieve, after a period of legislative turmoil, is exit from decisions and directives of the European Court of Justice which rule on EU law and the internal market – that includes workers’ rights, freedom of movement, anti discrimination measures, family union rights, and the promotion of public health. Exit from the EU might mean dirtier beaches and fewer “Polish plumbers”, an unlikely threat to sovereignty one would think, but would involve a dismantling of useful mandatory standards for modern democratic states. If one can entirely trust the national government to protect those rights – zero hours contracts anyone? – who needs Europe? Well, we do. The foundation of it all, including the HRA and Convention, was a catastrophic war where millions died and civilisation tore itself apart. Unity, even with gripes about bananas, is not only strength but safety. If the government then dismantled our Human Rights Act and ditched the Convention on Human Rights , the prospect would be grim indeed: a little island without principles perched on the edge of the civilised world.
Follow Jeannie Mackie on Twitter: @feliciamackie