Laws don’t just “bubble up” from nowhere

From the Economist, an argument for the futility of leaving the EU (my added emphases):

The Johnson-Gove argument goes something like this: unlike many continental countries, Britain has an unbroken tradition of liberty and representative democracy (a “golden thread”) dating back to Magna Carta and shared by other Anglophone nations. This tradition is almost uniquely uncompromising about accountability, steadfast in the conviction that power should rest only in the hands of leaders elected by and answerable to a nation constituting a demos, a community of shared assumptions and experiences. Thus the EU, accountable to foreigners as well as Britons, breaks the sacred bond of mutual power between decisionmakers and those on whose behalf they act.

The flaw in this case lies in the tradition’s idealistic definition of sovereignty. For Mr Johnson and Mr Gove, being sovereign is like being pregnant—you either are or you aren’t. Yet increasingly in today’s post-Westphalian world, real sovereignty is relative. A country that refuses outright to pool authority is one that has no control over the pollution drifting over its borders, the standards of financial regulation affecting its economy, the consumer and trade norms to which its exporters and importers are bound, the cleanliness of its seas and the security and economic crises propelling shock waves—migration, terrorism, market volatility—deep into domestic life. To live with globalisation is to acknowledge that many laws (both those devised by governments and those which bubble up at no one’s behest) are international beasts whether we like it or not. If sovereignty is the absence of mutual interference, the most sovereign country in the world is North Korea.

Thus the EU is just one of thousands of intrusions on the sort of sovereignty that the likes of Mr Johnson so cherish. Britain is subject to some 700 international treaties involving multi-lateral submissions to multilateral compromises. Its membership of the UN similarly infringes its self-determination, for it can be outvoted there just as it can in Brussels. Likewise the WTO, NATO, the COP climate talks, the IMF, the World Bank, nuclear test ban treaties and accords on energy, water, maritime law and air traffic all require Britain to tolerate the sort of trade-offs that Eurosceptic souverainistes find distasteful: influence in exchange for irksome standardisation, laws and rules set mostly by foreigners not elected by Britons (regulations that Britain would not apply, or would apply differently, if left to its own devices)…

So what this writer is saying is that in a globalised world in which countries are tied by any number of alliances, treaties, trade agreements, etc, sovereignty is illusory. Other people will be making your laws, whether you like it or not. In fact laws may just “bubble up at no one’s behest”.

It is a counsel of despair: it is resignation to democratic self-government becoming impossible.

If so, then all freedom must entirely vanish, as one law after another just “bubbles up”, to further erode freedoms.

The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is one such freedom-destroying treaty that seems to have somehow just “bubbled up” out of nowhere. I still have no idea who signed up to it on Britain’s behalf, or why. There was no parliamentary debate about it. Yet it’s the straitjacket which has required Britain to enact socially divisive and economically destructive smoking bans.

But what is the point of all these alliances and treaties and trade agreements except to preserve and enhance the freedom and prosperity of the British people? If it is not this, then it can only be a way of shackling and hobbling and impoverishing the people – which is something that surely only Britain’s enemies would desire?

By all means enter into partnerships and treaties and alliances and other agreements. But always ensure that the outcome is beneficial to your own freedom and prosperity. And if it is not, then walk away from it.

If laws just “bubble up” out of nowhere, it can only be because someone somewhere has not been doing their job of ensuring beneficial outcomes, or warning against adverse outcomes. As for example happens when people fail to read the agreements they are signing.

The laws may indeed be “international beasts” that grow out of discussions with many people all over the world, but they still ultimately require our agreement. And if we don’t agree to them, they will not apply.

About Frank Davis

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30 Responses to Laws don’t just “bubble up” from nowhere

  1. jaxthefirst says:

    Well, to continue the analogy further, if globalisation can be likened to pollution drifting across the seas – impossible for anyone to actively avoid if it’s heading their way (as may well be the case with globalisation) – then at least, with one’s sovereignty intact, one can decide how to tackle the oncoming problem, ignoring, if possible, those elements which are less likely to be damaging, whilst concentrating one’s attention on the most urgent matters which the polluting drift might cause. Without sovereignty, one has to wait for one’s superiors to tell one how to react, how to treat the pollution, what can and can’t be avoided and what is and isn’t important – and in the case of the EU, these rules will be applied in exactly the same way to all member states (including the landlocked ones, who won’t be affected, but who will have to arm themselves with beach-cleaning and wildlife-rescuing equipment even though it’ll never be used), and regardless of seasonal weather conditions, different tidal flows and different shoreline ecologies and landscapes.

    Sovereignty doesn’t mean that a country must, or will, ignore the global nature of business and politics today – it just means that it retains the power to decide which bits to react to most strongly, which to embrace and utilise and which to strenuously avoid. The Economist article also conveniently sidesteps the fact that, as part of the EU, the worst and most damaging kind of pollution – that of the strangling nature of never-ending EU dictats, instructions, directives and freedom-diminishing laws – becomes completely unavoidable.

    • harleyrider1978 says:

      Jax wildlife is the property of the people who own the land privately or public lands run by the nation itself with its own public hunting laws on those lands. As far as global waters and pollution that’s the biggest BS reason I ever heard of for basically world domination and its socialist order. Any country can clean up a oil spill on their own,we sure don’t need a one world order to accomplish that. In fact globalization is whats created the whole mess we have today. Nationalism is always the result when they try and create a NWO just like before with Wilsons League of nations,it failed and rightly so. Look at the mess we have today open borders no checks and balances,welfare nations grabbing the wealth of other nations that contribute nothing to the same ie southern Europe. It takes everyone else down with it.

  2. RdM says:

    The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is one such freedom-destroying treaty that seems to have somehow just “bubbled up” out of nowhere. I still have no idea who signed up to it on Britain’s behalf, or why. There was no parliamentary debate about it.

    Are you sure about that third, last sentence?

    For an answer to the second, you could start here:

    Or just search, like (a cuppa & a fair bit of reading:!) (maybe start at the earlier end, by date.)

    I’m sure there were actually plenty of Hansard debates recording the crucial moments.
    And the associated documents, submissions, &etc. are likely available too.

    Certainly in NZ, which idiotically joined in 2003 – why not the UK?


    • harleyrider1978 says:

      UK signatures to the FCTC were kept hush hush and as frank said I don’t think anyone even knows who signed the bloody thing to begin with or even when. Its the worse piece of facism/socialism ever penned.

    • Frank Davis says:

      It doesn’t surprise me at all that the FCTC got mentioned in parliament on numerous occasions, but that’s not the same as a debate.

      Junican has done some digging into this matter,
      and concluded that:

      AND SO WE SEE THAT THE ‘FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON TOBACCO CONTROL’ WAS NOT RATIFIED BY PARLIAMENT. We also know how this was done – by invoking ‘The Ponsonby Rule’. For we shall see in what follows that no attempt whatseover was made to gain the approval of Parliament for the Tobacco Control Treaty.

      The Ponsonby Rule:

      It is the intention of His Majesty’s Government to lay on the table of both Houses of Parliament every treaty, when signed, for a period of 21 days, after which the treaty will be ratified and published and circulated in the Treaty Series. In the case of important treaties, the Government will, of course, take an opportunity of submitting them to the House for discussion within this period. But, as the Government cannot take upon itself to decide what may be considered important or unimportant, if there is a formal demand for discussion forwarded through the usual channels from the Opposition or any other party, time will be found for the discussion of the Treaty in question….

      Resolutions expressing Parliamentary approval of every Treaty before ratification would be a very cumbersome form of procedure and would burden the House with a lot of unnecessary business. The absence of disapproval may be accepted as sanction, and publicity and opportunity for discussion and criticism are the really material and valuable elements which henceforth will be introduced.

      So, treaties that have been signed are laid on the table of both houses, and unless there is a formal demand for a discussion, they will be ratified after 21 days. This means that, unless there is an objection, the treaties will be automatically ratified. And this is what happened with the FCTC, even though it was arguably one of the most important treaties for many years, given the impact it was going to have on British smokers and British pubs and restaurants.

      • Roobeedoo2 says:

        There’s a Ponsonby Rule for ponces? Makes perfect sense.

        • harleyrider1978 says:

          Its a scam rule to bypass any debate. Basically said you guys got screwed by your own governments systems put in place when.

      • harleyrider1978 says:

        The Ponsonby Rule was a constitutional convention in the United Kingdom constitutional law that dictated that most international treaties had to be laid before Parliament 21 days before ratification.

        On 11 November 2010 Part 2 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 was brought into force by a commencement order.[1] Part 2 of the Act deals with the ratification of treaties and puts Parliamentary scrutiny of treaties on a statutory footing,[further explanation needed] effectively replacing the Ponsonby Rule.

        • harleyrider1978 says:

          The Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 is an Act on the Parliament of the United Kingdom which reformed the Royal Prerogative and made other significant changes.

          The Act put the civil service on a statutory footing for the first time. Among other provisions, it requires members of the House of Lords to be domiciled in the United Kingdom for tax purposes, failing which they lose their seats in parliament. Five members of the House lost their seats under this provision, namely:
          The Lord Bagri
          The Baroness Dunn
          The Lord Foster of Thames Bank
          The Lord Laidlaw
          The Lord McAlpine of West Green

          With regard to Parliamentary approval for the ratification of treaties, it gave the Ponsonby Rule a statutory footing, but did not place the declaration of war and the deployment of the British armed forces onto a similar statutory footing, as was first intended when the bill came to Parliament, leaving them instead to the Royal Prerogative, as before.

          The Act exempts some members of the Royal Family from the Freedom of Information Act[1] (having been enacted in 2011).[

        • harleyrider1978 says:

          Ponsonby Rule it would seem should be renamed the Ponzi Rule………it basically lets anything become the law of your land with no means of reproach or redress from harm resultant in it due course.

        • harleyrider1978 says:

          That is unless the government simply ignores the treaty altogether and lets it die on the vine.

      • Cecily Collingridge says:

        The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control was signed on the 16th June 2003. It was ratified on the 16th December 2004 and came into effect on the 16th March 2005.

        The Foreign & Commonwealth Office guidance on treaties here:

        • harleyrider1978 says:

          Cecily treaties are only as good as the paper they are typed on. Guess how many treaties are in effect and not being pursued.

        • harleyrider1978 says:

          If the UK brexits then odds are ash cruk and many other groups will be disbanded and the FCTC likely tossed to the heap.

  3. harleyrider1978 says:

    Ithink you could call his argument the case for total world socialism. As it certainly isn’t for the benefit of anyone or any independent nation state. Nationalism is on the rise and Trumps flying like an ICBM headed straight to the WH on it. Hopefully the same is happening to every country in the world a return to independence and democratic rule with constitutional guarantees from anyone ever denying us our liberties and rights again.

  4. Rose says:


    This just goes to show how careful you have to be when reading the newspapers.

    For the last two days I have been in an agony of conscience, I have read in several papers that Marks and Spencers had tried to influence my vote in the referendum by signing up to David Cameron’s letter ( written by a civil servant ) allegedly from business leaders recommending that we should vote to Remain.

    I found out this morning after some research that thankfully, it’s not true.

    I have a small Marks and Spencers food hall nearby at which I am a regular shopper and it really would have hurt me to stop shopping there.

    Perhaps Marks and Spencer should make it abundantly clear to their customers that they have not signed that letter

    “Marks & Spencer said it would not be signing the letter. A spokeswoman for the retailer said: “We believe it’s a decision for the people of Britain to make.”

    And that it was in fact their outgoing CEO.

    Business leaders’ letter to the Times in full
    “These individuals have stated they are signing in a personal capacity:”

    Marc Bolland, CEO, Marks and Spencer


    EU referendum: Top firms back pro-EU letter, but supermarkets refuse to sign

    “Tesco said in a statement: “The referendum on EU membership is a decision for the people of Britain. Whatever that decision is, our focus will continue to be on serving customers.”

    A spokeswoman for Sainsbury’s said it was an “apolitical organisation” and the vote on Europe was a “matter for the British people”.

    Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Tesco have all concluded that backing a vote to stay in the EU could deter customers, despite each company having built different retail operations. ”

    “Signatories to the pro-EU letter – scheduled for publication in Tuesday’s Times newspaper – include Sir Roger Carr, the chair of BAE; Carolyn McCall, the easyJet chief executive; and Ben van Beurden, Shell chief executive.

    They are joined by the BT chairman, Sir Michael Rake, and the outgoing Marks & Spencer chief executive, Marc Bolland, who is backing EU membership in a personal capacity.”

    Marks & Spencer said it would not be signing the letter. A spokeswoman for the retailer said: “We believe it’s a decision for the people of Britain to make.”

    Which is a considerable relief.

    • jaxthefirst says:

      It’s notable, isn’t it that all the signatories to this letter are representatives of very large corporations? Of course they love the EU! Quite apart from the grants mentioned below, large companies are much better equipped to cope with the myriad rules and regulations and red tape associated with being subject to EU demands; small and medium-sized companies (who, contrary to what the public have been led to believe over the years, employ far, far more people in total than all the larger businesses do) are much less able to cope with all the extra paperwork, inspections, checks, H&S regs, employee “rights,” and constantly-changing regulations, and as a result become much less competitive, leaving the field open for big business to squeeze them slowly but surely out of the market altogether.

      • Jay says:

        Was the M&S thing misreporting or, as in the case of Michael Rose, a signature added when the signatory hadn’t agreed or had felt pressurised to sign (ambiguous reporting on the Rose incident)?

        • Rose says:

          It seems to have been misreporting, in the letter it was made clear that Marc Bolland was signing on his own behalf not as a representative of Marks and Spencer.

  5. harleyrider1978 says:
  6. harleyrider1978 says:
  7. junican says:

    Regarding the signing of the FCTC, i did a FOI request, but I forget where I addressed it to. I got a reply that ‘an official from the Foreign Office signed it’, and telling me to take it up with them. Is there an implication that the person who signed it was not even the UN Ambassador? Perhaps the ambassador would not have had the power to do so. I thought of pursuing it but decided that the signatory would probably be someone that I have never heard of, and that there was no real point in bothering.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Is there an implication that the person who signed it was not even the UN Ambassador?

      Might have been the tea lady, or a part-time cleaner.

    • Rose says:

      UK ratifies global tobacco treaty: now is the time for a long term strategy to cut tobacco use
      Thursday 16 December 2004

      ASH news release: For immediate release:Thursday 16th December 2004

      “Today the UK has joined the growing list of countries that have now formally ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control – the first global health treaty which commits governments to enact strict tobacco control measures. The FCTC will come into effect on 28 February 2005.

      The signing also coincides with the publication today of the latest statistics which reveal that smoking rates in Britain have stalled at 26% overall – showing no change since 2002.

      Implementation of the FCTC will assist governments in reaching the United Nations Millennium Development goals of reducing poverty and improving health.

      Key provisions in the treaty encourage countries to:

      Introduce effective measures to protect people from exposure to secondhand smoke;

      Enact comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship;

      Require rotating health warnings on tobacco packaging that cover at least 30 percent (but ideally 50 percent or more) of the principal display areas and can include pictures or pictograms;

      Ban the use of misleading and deceptive terms such as “light” and “mild”;

      Combat smuggling, including the placing of final destination markings on packs; and

      Increase tobacco taxes.

      The treaty also requires governments to

      “ …develop, implement, periodically update and review comprehensive multisectoral national tobacco control strategies, plans and programmes in accordance with this Convention and the protocols to which it is a Party.”

      In what way would ever increasing tobacco taxes “assist governments in reaching the United Nations Millennium Development goals of reducing poverty…”?

      • harleyrider1978 says:

        By increasing poverty with legal smoke taxes. But then again a thriving blackmarket would make the costs of tobacco practically nothing after market forces are met.

  8. Rose says:

    No 10 Admits Military Chiefs Letter Blunder

    “Downing St includes the name of retired British Army General Sir Michael Rose on a letter supporting PM’s EU stance by mistake.

    General Sir Michael Rose contacted Sky News to say that he had not backed the EU letter campaign, despite the fact his name was included on the list in the letter, orchestrated by Number 10 and published in The Daily Telegraph.

    It forced No 10 to apologise and a spokesman admitted a “mistake was made” in naming Gen Rose. He said the retired Director of Special Forces had contacted Downing Street to point out he had not wanted to be a signatory.”

    The letter has been published 24 hours after Downing Street orchestrated a similar endorsement from business leaders.”

    Downing Street admits Brexit ‘scaremongering’ letter WASN’T signed by ex-military chief

    “A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “Due to an administrative error on our part, General Sir Michael Rose hadn’t signed the letter which appeared in the Telegraph this morning.”

    It comes after David Cameron was forced to defend why only around a third of Britain’s biggest companies had signed a similar letter warning against Brexit.

    The letter, published yesterday, was signed by the bosses of 36 of FTSE 100 firms despite speculation earlier in the week between 50-80 would come out in support of the Prime Minister’s campaign to keep Britain in the EU.

    It has also been claimed those 36 companies received almost £100m in grants from Brussels’ between them during 2007 to 2014.”

    This is all getting very interesting.

  9. harleyrider1978 says:
  10. Philip Neal says:

    The Economist article confuses two different things, the origin of individual laws and sources of law. A great many laws originate with international bodies, often little known ones like UNECE (see Christopher Booker in the Sunday Telegraph and Richard North’s EU Referendum blog). This does not make those bodies a source of law.

    Sovereignty is all or nothing because it means the legal omnipotence of nation states and of their organs of government (the legislature and the courts). International bodies can impose laws on a state only when the state has delegated powers to them: in such cases, states are the sources of law even when the power to draft the laws are delegated.

    There are those who want there to be a world legal order in which the international organisations are independent sources of law superior to nation states, but the practice of delegating powers to them does not create such a state of affairs, much though the Economist and other voices of the left-liberal establishment might like you to think so.

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