Starmer’s sinister plan for Britain will end the country as we knew it

Keir Starmer QC, the director of public prosecutions, publishes his final guidelines on prosecutions for assisted suicide at the CPS at Ludgate Hill
Forever the progressive lawyer: Starmer remains a true believer in a global juristocracy - Lewis Whyld/PA

Labour’s real plans for office remain shrouded in mystery, but we know one central fact: Sir Keir Starmer’s party is a fanatical believer in “international law”. It will be predisposed to accept any new treaty that limits Britain’s ability to govern itself, and will cheer any ruling from a global court striking down the actions of a national government. It will reflexively take sides with the “international community”, Davos man, the human rights lawyers, post-national technocrats, Foreign Office mandarins and NGO activists.

None of this should come as a surprise. Labour in 2024 is the party of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), of the UN and its agencies, however corrupt or wrong-headed, of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the World Health Organisation, the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice. It considers criticism of such bodies, even when their decisions are absurd, to be taboo.

Their international nature supposedly imbues them with legitimacy and superior authority. National governments are deemed untrustworthy, at all times susceptible to veering into demagogic racism as a result of electoral pressure, but global institutions are treated as obviously well-meaning, even when they have been captured by rogue states or funded by autocracies.

This is a staggeringly naive approach, yet the modern Left believes that legitimacy emanates, top-down, from international organisations, rather than bottom-up from democratically accountable nation states. Such an approach might sound brilliantly rational to a 17-year old follower of Descartes, but in practice it is the most idiotic, ahistorical doctrine imaginable.

International law doesn’t actually exist. It started off as a noble lie, a convenient fiction to protect minorities and discourage states from invading their neighbours. It has since been hijacked to impose global rules and regulations, or to gang up on tiny countries. It has taken the world 79 years to put Jews on trial for fighting Nazis, using institutions specifically set up to prevent the rise of a new Nazism.

The perversity is unbearable, but Labour backs the anti-Israel hate spewed by international “courts”. Many in the party believe that Israel is breaking “international law” and that we shouldn’t sell arms to it – both entirely nonsensical claims – but have little to say about real repression around the world.

International law has been exposed as a sick joke, weaponised by malign actors, used to victim-blame and ignored by the superpowers. America exercises arbitrary power via its control of the dollar and its military. Russia is an evil dictatorship. China doesn’t care about human rights.

It is only the Western Left that actually believes and follows “international law”: it is merely convenient for Iran and other genocidal tyrannies to pretend to do so. They relish the prospect of “international courts” – in reality, clownish, parti-pris forums that can’t compare to genuinely independent British justice – moving to make warfare by Western democracies effectively illegal, on the insane grounds that almost any civilian death is a war crime, thus disarming us.

Yet Starmer, a former director of public prosecutions, remains a true believer in a global juristocracy. That used to mean worshipping at the altar of the EU. He will certainly shadow some of its rules, and tie us back in where he can, but for now won’t formally rejoin either the single market or the customs union.

The EU was just one way to constrain British self-government. If anything, it was too obvious, too controversial, too narrow geographically: far easier for Labour to hand powers to lower-profile global bodies. The ECHR is imposing net zero on Switzerland, even if voters disagree: no need to join the EU.

Immigration is another flashpoint. Many millions more could become eligible for refugee status – so many as to overwhelm every European country – and most, if not all, Western nations will probably eventually decide to cap numbers and choose who they let in. This would require carefully ending non-refoulement, the principle that refugees cannot be returned to their country of origin – once a great and humane idea but one which in its current form is unsustainable.

There is no chance of this under Labour. I suspect the Supreme Court may soon deem non-refoulement part of “customary international law”, and thus binding even were we to cease being party to treaties (such as the Refugee Convention and the ECHR) that gave this effect. The Court hinted as much in its Rwanda judgment, citing the fact that Tony Blair signed a declaration subscribing to that view. How long will it take for activists to test this principle, cheered on by Labour?

The party may also conscript government employees. The Civil Service Code states that civil servants must “comply with the law”, which currently refers to domestic, not international, law. Formally extending it to the latter would allow civil servants to refuse to work on any government project that could be deemed to violate “international law”. Forget about Brexit negotiations, or Rwanda, or even a road-building project (in violation of net zero): this would turn the state into a revolutionary Left-wing body, with calamitous consequences.

In Britain, domestic law is different to international law (a “dualist” approach). Parliamentary legislation is required to implement international obligations we sign up to. In some “monist” countries, international law is deemed a direct, superior part of domestic law and takes precedence over national rules. Germany, for good, historic reasons, is an example of this approach.

Uniquely, Britain’s Parliament also wields total power: it can write or repeal any law of any kind, and overturn judges on any issue, unlike in countries governed by the separation of powers and a written, hard-to-amend constitution.

Left-wing lawyers have long considered these two defining features of Britain’s polity to be an archaic abomination, a key driver of our cultural conservatism. This is why they backed devolution and the Human Rights Act, as well as the quasi-constitutional Equality Act.

Many would love to make us more like Germany, and dream of a day when lawyers can constrain MPs and parliamentary sovereignty is abolished. Labour won’t go that far, but its obsession with “international law” risks inflicting further catastrophic damage on the foundations of the British state.