Ex Post Facto

Currently working on a post-Brexit, post-Trump story. I say “working” but actually I became (as I am, easily) distracted and ended up reading a wiki about Common Law where I came across the term Ex Post Facto.

In the story, a law is enacted which deprives the central characters of their rights. It may be a post-Brexit story but doesn’t deal with Brexit head-on because that would be too obvious. What it is interested in however is the power of politics to change people’s lives, their relationships and the nature of the society around them.

Ex Post Facto is the principle on which US and UK Common law diverge. Example: if I had three wives and polygamy was suddenly made illegal, if I was an American I would remain legally married to my wives, but not if I was a Briton. In the UK, the law can be changed ex post facto (after the fact) and previously legal acts can suddenly become illegal.

Because there is no constitution in the UK, Parliament is absolutely sovereign, which means Parliament can, literally, do anything it wants. Citizens, practically, have no protection above and beyond the whims of Parliament from one day to another.

In a sense, I have always suspected this is what Brexit was really about from the point-of-view of most of the politicians who supported it. They resented their power being reined in by such troublesome supranational legal instruments as the European Convention on Human Rights. Ditto the news magnates who realised their untrammelled access to power (ie via politicians) was indeed trammelled by the EU. In any case, they won and they – not we – truly are the masters now.

So what’s the story about? It’s certainly a cautionary tale about the consequences of “pure” democracy in the world we live in. It’s also about the cyclical nature of history, the reinvention of scapegoats, how virtue can be as much fashion as fact (and the inherent weakness of human nature), and how little most people understand about the true nature of the society they live in . . . until it’s too late. Ex Post Facto, for example – how a simple legal loophole could have a devastating effect on ordinary lives.

 

 

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