It is vital we are wary of an overreach from Governments on civil liberties, as it leads directly to an infringement of democracy, argues Konrad Whitehouse

In times of adversity, people are quick to sacrifice their rights and civil liberties. They put their blind faith and safety in the hands of whichever Government is currently in office despite how they voted in the polling booth. Across the world we have seen Governments seize sweeping controls with just a handful of cases, encroaching citizens civil liberties on a whim.

Weeks ago, at the beginning of the pandemic, the UK Government was bombarded with criticism for not shutting down schools, bars, restaurants and public spaces in tandem with European Union Governments. The point of this was misjudged. It wasn't to pursue a herd immunity strategy to fight COVID-19. It was for the simple, and somehow bizarre reason, that we are a 'functioning liberal democracy'. Those words, reiterated time and time again by our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, went unappeased and unheard.

Our Prime Minister and Government deserve boundless credit for upholding our civil liberties in times of adversity for as long as they did. The same cannot be said for most of our EU neighbours, who were issuing time slots and certificates for those allowed to leave the house for allocated destinations and even the prohibition of leaving the house for exercise. Some have even gone further.

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Civil liberties are directly engrained into democracy. An encroaching Government which swipes at people's freedoms is just a step away from ripping democracy away from its citizens. Hungary was the first in Europe to enter itself into an autocratic state, with its Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, now ruling under despotism. Had this been in normal times, there would be outcry and international news coverage. Under the pretence of an international health panic ? nobody bats an eyelid.

Just like the virus, the elimination of democracy is equally contagious. Poland's Ruling Party have called an election, but have banned the opposition from campaigning under lockdown rules. The Czech Republic was one of the first to lockdown the entire nation despite very few cases of the COVID-19 virus. The Government there is now trying to limit the opposition parties and the media from criticising them. A similar story in Slovakia. It is becoming more laissez-faire for Governments to seize power and intrude democracy without the usual voices criticising and preventing Governments doing so.

It is vital we are wary of an overreach from Governments on civil liberties, as it leads directly to an infringement of democracy. The UK has already been subject to a violation of democracy for over 3 years. Brexit was unashamedly blocked and manipulated by Prime Ministers, Speakers, elected officials, civil servants, judges and foreign interferences.

We now appear to be through the turmoil as Brexit was legally implemented on January 31st this year and we entered the Transition Period. However, we must not get complacent and we must not let any democratic infringement take any form and delay Brexit any longer. It is frustrating to note the new Labour Leader, Sir Keir Starmer, is even suggesting he will campaign for our re-entry into the EU. No doubt this would see the total annihilation of the Labour Party.

We must make sure we Get Britain Out by December 31st 2020. This would confirm the statement the Government has reiterated throughout this pandemic – we are a functioning liberal democracy. Should this Government succeed, as we hope it will do, it would relight the beacon of democracy which the House of Commons represents across the world in times when democracy appears to be faltering. However, if the Government fail – and the democratic will of the people is delayed further – the claim to be a functioning liberal democracy will be thrown into disrepute.

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