On Friday Michel Barnier told a meeting of EU27 ambassadors the EU has a “duty” to stand firm on its key Brexit red lines and not compromise on the draft Withdrawal Agreement. However, what seems to have escaped M. Barnier’s attention – and that is the most generous way of putting it – is that some of those red lines are serious breaches of international human rights conventions and could even lead to an investigation by the UN Human Rights Committee.

The most important area where the draft text breaches human rights conventions to which all EU member states have signed up is the requirement that the UK cannot leave the customs backstop without the permission of the EU. There is is a further potential breach over the division of the UK created by the EU insistence that Northern Ireland be subjected to additional EU regulations over which they will have no say.

Specifically, the draft Withdrawal Agreement breaches the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The important thing about the ICCPR is that unlike many other human rights conventions, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ICCPR has legal teeth because countries ratifying are required to give it legal status in their country. That means that any breach of it can be subject to judicial review. The very first article of the ICCPR states:

Article 1

  1. All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
  2. All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic co-operation, based upon the principle of mutual benefit, and international law. In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence.
  3. The States Parties to the present Covenant, including those having responsibility for the administration of Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories, shall promote the realization of the right of self-determination, and shall respect that right, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations.

Please note that first section:

All peoples have the right of self determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic… development.

Requiring the UK to sign a treaty taking away that right to determine our own political and economic development i.e. leave the backstop, without the EU’s permission, is a clear violation of Article 1 of the ICCPR.

Now, the EU actually makes great play of the importance of the ICCPR; in fact, it is a major tool of EU foreign policy. Through the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preference (GSP), it grants a number of developing countries zero tariff or low tariff access to the EU Single Market – providing that they actively comply with a number of international human rights conventions, among which the ICCPR is prominent.

Compliance requires not simply saying the right thing, but also doing the right thing. For example, in February this year there was serious concern amongst business leaders in Pakistan that they could lose GSP status precisely because of Pakistan’s non-compliance with aspects of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It is therefore an extraordinary and shameless act of double hypocrisy for the EU to breach the ICCPR in such a blatant way.

There are actually other international human rights conventions which the EU has potentially breached in the draft Withdrawal Agreement as well. For example, Article 73 of the UN Charter which relates to countries which do not have ‘a full measure of self-government’ i.e. where a foreign power exercises a measure of political or economic control, requires that foreign power to recognise ‘the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount’, while the UN convention relating to such territories specifically states that:

Any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

However, returning to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), it is clear that the draft Withdrawal Agreement is a very blatant breach of the ICCPR, which is legally enforceable in any country which has ratified it – as all EU members states have.

It is therefore possible for anyone to apply for judicial review of the Withdrawal Agreement. However, even if a request for judicial review were refused – because all 28 EU member states have ratified not just the ICCPR itself, but also the First Optional Protocol, a referral can be made directly to the UN Human Rights Committee by any

individuals who claim that any of their rights enumerated in the Covenant have been violated and who have exhausted all available domestic remedies may submit a written communication to the Committee for consideration.

As all EU member states are required to collectively agree the Withdrawal Agreement, they become liable when they do so.

I wonder how the people of Belgium or Germany – or for that matter Ireland – will feel about being investigated by the UN Human Rights Committee because of a serious breach of an international human rights convention by the European Union as it sought to retain control over an independent sovereign nation after it left the EU?

The post The proposed Withdrawal Agreement breaches international human rights conventions appeared first on BrexitCentral.

My biggest beef with the European Union has always been the way it stifles consumer-friendly innovation in the interests of incumbent businesses and organisations. Today’s victory for Sir James Dyson at the European General Court lays bare an especially shocking example.

Dyson’s case, which has taken five years in the courts, reveals just how corrupt and crony-capitalist the European Union has become. It is no surprise that Sir James was and is a big supporter of Britain leaving the EU. Essentially, the rules have been bent to allow German manufacturers to deceive customers about the performance of their vacuum cleaners, in a manner uncannily similar to – but even worse than — the way mostly German car manufacturers deceived customers about the emissions from diesel vehicles.

In today’s decision – a very rare case in which the EU courts have had to back down — the EU’s General Court said it would uphold Dyson’s claim and that “tests of a vacuum cleaner’s energy efficiency carried out with an empty receptacle do not reflect conditions as close as possible to actual conditions of use”. Yes, you read that right: until now, in Europe only, vacuum cleaners were tested without dust, the better to suit German manufacturers.

The case concerns labels on vacuum cleaners stating how much energy they use. The Energy Label for corded vacuum cleaners is mandated by the EU’s Ecodesign and Energy Labelling regulations. The purpose is to encourage energy efficiency in such products and the job of the Energy Label is to make sure that consumers get clear information about product performance. Dyson was the first manufacturer to support limits on the power consumption of motors in vacuums. Why wouldn’t it be: its Cyclone product is very efficient?

The Energy Label was introduced throughout the EU in September 2014 and updated in September 2017. It covers overall energy rating, rated A to G, with A being best and G being worst; annual energy usage: in kWh; the amount of dust in air emitted from the machine’s exhaust (A to G); the noise level in decibels; how much dust the machine picks up from carpets (A to G); and how much dust the machine picks up from hard floors and crevices (A to G).

All very reasonable, until you find that the European Commission stipulated that under these regulations, vacuum cleaners are tested empty and with no dust. This flies in the face of the methods developed by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), an international standards organization, which have been adopted by consumer test bodies and manufacturers worldwide. It is out of line with the way other appliances, such as washing machines, ovens and dishwashers are tested “loaded”, not empty.

Why would the EC have made this strange decision? Because the big German manufacturers make vacuum cleaners with bags. Sir James Dyson invented ones without bags. And the bag ones gradually become clogged with dust so they have to use more power or lose suction. The decision to test them empty plainly benefits the bag-cleaners. Behind the scenes the German manufacturers lobbied for this outcome.

The result of this is that you can buy a bag cleaner with an A rating, take it home and find that most of the time it performs like a G-rated cleaner.

So in 2013 Dyson challenged the labelling rules in the EU General Court, arguing that, to reflect real-life experience, the performance of a vacuum cleaner should be tested in real-world conditions, and that might actually include – God forbid – encountering dust. In November 2015, the EU General Court dismissed Dyson’s claims saying that dust-loaded testing is not reliable or “reproducible” and therefore could not be adopted, despite the fact that the international standard does use dust. Nonsense: in its labs and in houses, Dyson tests its own machines using real dust, fluff grit and debris including dog biscuits and Cheerio cereals – of both the European and the American kind.

Dyson appealed to the European Court of Justice in January 2016 and on 11 May 2017 it won. The court said that to reach the conclusion it had, the General Court “distorted the facts”, “ignored their own law”, “had ignored Dyson’s evidence” and had “failed to comply with its duty to give reasons”. The ECJ said that the test must adopt, where technically possible, “a method of calculation which makes it possible to measure the energy performance of vacuum cleaners in conditions as close as possible to actual conditions of use”. The case was passed back to the General Court, which was given time to reconsider its verdict at leisure. Today, after eighteen months of cogitation (what do judges do all day?), and with nowhere to go, the court capitulated.

Dyson has this to say about the case: “the EU label flagrantly discriminated against a specific technology – Dyson’s patented cyclone. This benefited traditional, predominantly German, manufacturers who lobbied senior Commission officials. Some manufacturers have actively exploited the regulation by using low motor power when in the test state, but then using technology to increase motor power automatically when the machine fills with dust – thus appearing more efficient. This defeat software allows them to circumvent the spirit of the regulation, which the European Court considers to be acceptable because it complies with the letter of the law.”

How much more shocking does the crony-capitalist corruption at the heart of Brussels have to get before people rebel against this sort of thing? They did already? Ah yes, Brexit, true Brexit, cannot come soon enough.

The post Dyson’s five-year legal battle reveals the crony capitalist corruption at the heart of the EU appeared first on BrexitCentral.

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