UK leaving European Convention on Human Rights 'extremely unlikely'

Mark White

By Mark White

Published: 31/01/2023

- 00:00

Updated: 14/02/2023

- 10:20

There are major issues at play that impacts on those hoping to leave the treaty.

It is "highly unlikely" that the British government will take a decision to pull the UK out of a key European human rights treaty, according to a top legal commentator.

There are growing calls for ministers to ditch the European Convention on Human Rights, by those who believe Brexit cannot be fully realised while the UK remains within the controversial treaty.

Critics blame the ECHR for allowing European judges to block key UK legislation, like introducing a more assertive immigration policy.

But legal expert Joshua Rozenberg told GB News that ditching the Convention was unnecessary and that he did not think there was currently an appetite in government to do so.

Flights sending migrants to Rwanda may not take place until later this year at the earliest amid ongoing legal action, MPs heard.
Flights sending migrants to Rwanda may not take place until later this year at the earliest amid ongoing legal action, MPs heard.
GB News

Introduced in the years after World War Two, the European Convention on Human Rights was drawn up by the initial members of the then fledgling Council on Europe.

It offered key protections to prevent those member governments abusing the fundamental rights of their citizens.

But critics say there is no need for the UK to still be tied to such a treaty.

They claim it is ludicrous that judges in a European court can make rulings against British government policy post Brexit.

Those demanding change cite the recent decision by the court in Strasbourg to block a Home Office flight bound for Rwanda, as part of a deal struck with the African nation to process asylum seekers there.

Membership of the treaty effectively allows citizens within a Council of Europe member country to challenge decisions in the Strasbourg court they think may be in breach of European human rights laws.

The treaty enshrines fundamental principles, like the "right to a fair trial", the "right to legal aid", the "right to a family life", and the "right not to suffer degrading or inhumane punishment".

As part of the treaty, Council of Europe members agree to address and correct any human rights breaches found by the court in Strasbourg.

But despite its many critics, and indications by Justice Secretary Dominic Raab that he would be willing to consider it, senior legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg thinks the treaty will stay.

"If the United Kingdom were to pull out of the Human Rights Convention, and I must say I think that's extremely unlikely... you would think that the UK would enact legislation to replace it."

Senior legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg
Senior legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg
GB News

Those calling for change suggest the so-called British Bill of Rights, currently working its way through Parliament could be supercharged to encompass key components of the ECHR.

Mr Rozenberg said: "Some people say that English common law would do the job just as well, and of course rights were enshrined long before we had the Human Rights Convention.

"But I have to say, this doesn't seem remotely likely. It was something that Justice Secretary Dominic Raab floated towards the end of last year, but it's not been picked up by anybody else.

"It's certainly not part of the British Bill of Rights. And the bill itself seems to be going nowhere, as it's yet to have its second reading in Parliament."

There is little doubt any move to extricate the UK from the ECHR would be extremely complex, as it is woven into the very fabric of UK human rights laws.

There is another major issue at play that impacts on those hoping to leave the treaty.

Despite the imperative to deal more robustly with the likes of the small boats crisis, the British government is proud of the UK's record on human rights.

Pulling out of the treaty would be seen by many as a major blow to Britain's long held position as a champion of human rights on the international stage.

Ditching the ECHR would put the UK in the same club as the only other two European countries not signed up to the treaty, Belarus and Russia.

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