Continental Breakfast: your daily update on what’s happening in Europe.
Human rights campaign group Liberty has today launched a crowdfunded legal challenge to new legislation that it claims grants the U.K. government “indiscriminate state spying powers.”
The controversial Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) came into law at the end of 2016 and gives a wide range of security, law enforcement and other government agencies the ability to access an individual’s internet browsing history and hack their electronic devices without a warrant.
Liberty director Martha Spurrier said the law, more commonly known as the snooper’s charter, is “the most extreme surveillance regime of any democracy in history…it is an unprecedented, unjustified assault on our freedom.”
The group is seeking to raise 10,000 pounds from public donors to finance a judicial review of the legislation. Liberty’s inhouse legal team is handling the case and will be represented in court by Martin Chamberlain QC and David Heaton of Brick Court Chambers.
The move follows last month’s landmark ruling by the European Union’s court of justice that “general and indiscriminate retention” of email and phone records by governments is illegal. The case related to a now obsolete law, the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA), which expired on December 31 and was replaced by the IPA.
Liberty says that DRIPA’s powers are “replicated and vastly expanded” in the IPA, “with no effort to counter the lack of safeguards found unlawful in the [EU] case.”
The IPA was widely criticized before its implementation for being too extreme. A petition calling for the law’s repeal has been signed by over 200,000 people, but was rejected by the government as the issue “underwent unprecedented scrutiny before becoming law.”
British Pound Slumps To Two-Month Low Over Hard Brexit Fears
The value of the British pound has slumped to a two-month low following comments by U.K. prime minister Theresa May that indicated the country will leave the European single market as part of a so-called “hard” Brexit.
Speaking to Sky News at the weekend, May once again hinted that Britain will exit the single market, which allows free trade in goods and services between EU nations. “Often people talk in terms as if we are leaving the EU but we still want to keep bits of membership of the EU. We’re leaving; we’re coming out,” she said.
The pound fell 1.3 percent against the U.S. dollar on Monday, to $1.21—its lowest level since late October. The pound also fell 1.5 percent against the euro, to €1.15.
May responded to the drop by saying that her comments had been misinterpreted. “I’m tempted to say that the people who are getting it wrong are those who print things saying I’m talking about a hard Brexit, (that) it is absolutely inevitable there’s a hard Brexit,” she said.
There are fears that a loss of single market access could result in banks and other companies—including global law firms—shifting business away from London to other European cities. Financial institutions are particularly concerned about Brexit, with many relying on EU passporting rules to run European trading operations out of London. A leaked document produced by magic circle law firms Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Linklaters recently revealed that the U.K. finance industry wants the British government to allow it to remain subject to EU laws for up to five years after Brexit.
Britain’s ambassador to the European Union resigned last week and accused the government of “ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking” over Brexit.