Britain and Europe
Liberty and Regulation

There are things in our lives, traditions, principles, ideals, which are so basic and fundamental we take them for granted and rarely give them a passing thought. Take for example the Presumption of Innocence. It is one of the foundation stones of justice throughout the world. Another example is the Presumption of Liberty.

The Presumption of Liberty is the presumption that we are all basically free to do whatever we like, the only justification for laws and regulations limiting that freedom being that whatever we do, we should not in the process harm or endanger others, individuals or the collectivity.

The idea is well summarized by Lord Denning, an outstanding figure in British justice, in his book 'The Family Story': "Each man should be free to develop his own personality to the full; the only restrictions upon this freedom should be those which are necessary to enable everyone else to do the same."

Applied in government, the principle is clear and simple. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, in his inaugural address to Congress as President in 1801: "the purpose of government is to prevent men from injuring one another".

Reading this in Britain, most Commonwealth countries or the USA, one might say... Well yes. It's nice to be reminded from time to time. But it's all quite obvious.

It may be quite obvious to us, but it's by no means obvious to citizens of the EU. Indeed quite the contrary. Throughout continental Europe the prevailing principle is a Presumption of Regulation. There are those actions which are forbidden and those which are obligatory. Ideally there should be nothing in between, no room for doubt or uncertainty. Regulation should be universal, and minutely detailed.

Britons have consistently disliked the country's membership of the European Union. When asked for reasons, replies frequently mention the torrent of petty rules and regulations which emanate continuously from Brussels. More importantly, Britons feel instinctively that the very basis of Law is fundamentally different, resulting in a deep conflict of culture between Britain and the continental EU.

It is our collective awareness of this very fundamental difference which has prompted our departure.

Britain Forward