Napoleonic code approaches the white cliffs of Dover
But the agreement in principle, struck in the early hours of 19th October, is permitting cogs to turn which have not turned since the referenda of France and the Netherlands; since the ‘constitutional concept’ was given a ‘pause for reflection’. Yet while the audience is mesmerised by conjecture upon the lead actors of this new Napoleonic epic, Cranmer is more concerned with who is writing the script and composing the score.
There is no doubt that the stage is set for either the return or the premiere of a great actor. Communicants will be aware of Cranmer’s thoughts on this. But EUObserver has picked up on a crafty bit of EU-creep, funded by the European Commission (i.e., you - to the tune of €4.3 million), and which will constitute the core principles of EU member states' private law. It is an EU civil code.
With remarkable coincidence, this is also to be presented to the Commission in December, and Cranmer half suspects that it will be slipped in beneath the champagne, fireworks, and strains of Beethoven’s Ninth which will accompany the signing of the Lisbon Treaty. It will be considered such a symbolic technicality that will not even merit coverage by the MSM, but the prospect of its adoption represents a sea-change in the way we are governed, and will undermine centuries of Common Law tradition.
The EU civil code, which already exists in draft, is consistent with the Roman Corpus Juris agenda, and will consist of legal articles relating to the exchange of goods and services. It will cover inter alia the provisions on contracts, the formation of a contract, the validity of contracts, the interpretation of contracts, the contents and effects of contracts, and the application of these rules to other juridical acts. The articles ‘will seek to describe what is the common core of European private law (in this case, mainly contract law), the bulk of which is currently covered by the 27 EU member states' national private law systems’.
Communicants may be yawning, but matters of private law – be it Common Law or Napoleonic Code - are presently the competence of each member state. As it happens, the UK and Ireland alone have a Common Law tradition, while legacy of Rome endures in the Napoleonic Code adopted by France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, and which considerably influenced the civil code of Germany. The isolation is self-evident. Of course, the Commission is denying that the objective is a European Civil Code, but a resolution adopted by the EU Parliament in March 2006 said: ‘Even though the Commission denies that this is its objective, it is clear that many of the researchers and stakeholders working on the project believe that the ultimate long-term outcome will be a European code of obligations or even a full-blown European Civil Code.’
This is a triumph for the French, the perpetuation of its revolutionary foundations, and a codification of the EU's Enlightenment principle that all spheres of life must be dealt with and regulated by a unitary system of law based on nothing but human rationality. This will present the UK with two legal systems for determining private law: one with its origins in England, the other in Rome. And since the two cannot co-exist, one must evidently give way to the other.