The rule of law is very simple: it means ‘everyone must obey the law’. Last year, much hay was made by a variety of politicians claiming the government might breach the rule of law over Brexit. It had not. But even the idea that the rule of law might have been broken was given rightful attention. We should take from that a comforting truth that breaches of the rule of law matter to society.
This week, a large group of people physically obstructed immigration officers in the proper conduct of their office in Glasgow, preventing them from detaining two men. This was a breach of the rule of law.
The whole point of the rule of law is that a billionaire in a diamond hat still has to have points on his licence if he speeds. Rich people don’t get special treatment. No one gets special treatment. And no one can avoid the law just because their supporters obstruct the police in carrying out their duties.
Whatever you feel about these breaches of the rule of law is politics. If you support them then you will be feeling like the undergraduate who is first told: ‘No, actually Robin Hood is probably guilty’. But these breaches have very clearly occurred. And the EU has seen them.
The EU is a legal construct. It was made by treaties, and is now one treaty – the Treaty on European Union (TEU). This treaty states in its preamble that every member state confirms their ‘attachment to the principle[s] of… the rule of law’. That is repeated in article two and given real teeth in article 21. The rule of law matters inside the EU, just as it matters here.