The EU is locked in a momentous fight with Poland. And the UK is backing the wrong side | Will Hutton

Plans to override the judges are unpalatable to those who defend Enlightenment values

It should be a moment when the values of the European Enlightenment, embodied triumphantly in the astonishing capacity to deliver anti-Covid vaccines within 12 months, should be riding high. “To dare to know”, the great maxim of Emmanuel Kant that delivers such brilliant science, is of a piece with principles of tolerating difference and good government founded on the separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judiciary. These underpin the rule of law and are foundational preconditions for EU membership embodied in its treaties. The British government, for its part, requires applicants for citizenship to know that the rule of law, and what stands behind it, is a supreme British value. Yet everywhere these Enlightenment principles are being challenged.

So while the justice secretary, Dominic Raab, ponders a freedom-curbing override of British judicial independence by equipping ministers with the power to change judges’ verdicts if they consider them “incorrect”, the EU finds itself facing a real crisis over the rule of law. The Polish government is actually doing what Raab, at least for the moment, is only contemplating.

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