Top QC renews attack on EU judges, days after husband BoJo’s controversial Brexit piece

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By CJ McKinney on

Marina Wheeler may upset colleagues at One Crown Office Row

Leading human rights barrister Marina Wheeler QC has launched a stinging attack on the European Union, accusing its judges of ignoring the bloc’s own laws on national security.

The One Crown Office Row advocate wrote in the Spectator that EU judges have overstepped the mark by meddling with the security services, and called for the UK to reclaim its national sovereignty.

Wheeler says that “in a series of recent, poorly reasoned decisions” on collecting bulk communications data, the Court of Justice (ECJ) overlooked EU legislation and treaty provisions instructing it to butt out. The Luxembourg court, she wrote:

[F]ailed to refer to its own previous judgments which recognised public security as being outside its remit.

UK judges on the Investigatory Powers Tribunal recently referred a case brought by right to privacy charity Privacy International to the EU court. The case concerns the collection of bulk communications data, which can include information about people’s calls, emails and internet use. Wheeler says this is:

[A]n astonishing state of affairs. Apart from anything else, the ECJ is ill-equipped to rule on such matters… It has no facility to handle security-sensitive evidence, unsurprisingly, given member states did not intend it to have a national security role.

The QC’s views on Europe are of particular interest, coming just days after her husband, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, caused a political row with an inflammatory pro-Brexit essay. The 4,000-word screed, which controversially repeated that £350 million pledge, was widely seen as a challenge to the authority of Prime Minister Theresa May.

Notably, when Wheeler attacked David Cameron’s EU deal last February, it foreshadowed Johnson’s conversion to the Leave cause days later. Now, The Sun is reporting this latest intervention as: “BOJO STICKS WIFE IN, Boris Johnson’s lawyer wife backs Hard Brexit”.

The stance taken by Wheeler, a public law specialist at One Crown Office Row, may grate with her colleagues at the prestigious set. Two thirds of barristers backed a Remain vote, according to a Legal Cheek survey of the profession. High profile Brexit backers are fairly rare in legal circles, but include Martin Howe QC of 8 New Square and former Court of Appeal judge Sir Richard Aikens.

Cambridge grad Wheeler finished her law degree in 1983 and also has a masters in EU law. She was called in 1987 and took silk in 2016. She married Johnson, with whom she has four children, in 1993.

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