It is fair to say that throughout the world, where the rule of law exists, there are 1 of 2 primary legal systems in operation, Common/Case Law and Continental/Civil Law. In the UK we have a legal system based on a Common Law, in Continental Europe, Civil Law is the basis of their legal systems. Having a different basis for your laws has never been anything other than just a cost of doing business, when applied on a national scale, on an international scale though, as with the EU, it is yet another area that shows the MADNESS of “ever closer union”.
There is much debate as what all the differences are and the relative merits of each approach, however interesting that debate is, the fact remains that our current legal system is one that is based on common law. Changing to a Continental legal system would be vastly expensive, disruptive and disadvantageous to us commercially, whilst we would find that many of its basic principles challenged our very beliefs as British citizens. The table below puts together what I understand to be the basic differences between the two :-
- Consists of codified rules set by legislation.
- Judges investigate then interpret the law, often involving law professors views as to theoretical points.
- Generally slow reacting, dependent on legislatures having drafted laws well. The executive of the law can vary as it can be reinterpreted in every new case.
- No pre-discovery of evidence
- The Law says what is legal
- Consists of more general rules set by precedence and evolution.
- Judges are neutral arbiters between the defence and the prosecution.
- Pragmatic, predictable, commercially, flexible and quick.
- Pre-discovery of evidence
- The Law says what is illegal
These are just a few of the principal differences between the two systems of law. It is fair to say that there inevitably has been some convergence, the modern world would be a more difficult place to do business if that were not the case. However, it is the great unspoken truth at Westminster that the UK has had, and continues to receive, ever increasing levels of EU regulations to codify and apply because that is how the Continental legal system operates.
The commercial success of the “Anglosphere” is fundamentally underpinned by our legal system, for good or bad. It reflects our national culture and character and is part of what makes us British, mess with it and you diminish our edge. In the end we need to recognise that these are fundamentally different philosophies. Their practical interactions will always leave Great Britain at a disadvantage whilst it remains in the EU.
Mark Davies completed a degree in British History at Leeds University in 1982, before going onto a career in the IT industry. He has worked for a number of leading companies such as ICL, SkillsGroup and EDS, rising to senior executive roles in sales. He gained wide experience doing business across both the public and private sector marketplaces throughout the UK and internationally.
Mark now has an interest in a number of smaller businesses and is semi-retired, and stood as a parliamentary candidate for UKIP in the 2015 and 2016 General Election.