'I'm unequivocal': Mark Francois demands ECHR pledge from Conservatives

'I'm unequivocal': Mark Francois demands ECHR pledge from Conservatives
Ben Chapman

By Ben Chapman

Published: 14/05/2024

- 08:09

Updated: 14/05/2024

- 08:14

Conservative MP Mark Francois has said his party should put renegotiation of the ECHR - or a departure from the Treaty - in the party’s general election manifesto,

Mr Francois also warned that any threat to the UK’s defence assets in Gibraltar from a post-Brexit treaty would be ‘unacceptable’ and said the government would be ‘anxious’ about any such treaty being debated in Parliament.

Speaking to GB News Mark Francois said:

“The Prime Minister said very clearly this afternoon that the government is going to appeal against the judgment. I welcome that, it’s the right thing to do. But the problem with that is that this could all become drawn out and protracted in the courts.

“My initial understanding, subject to reading the judgment, is that this won't immediately affect the ability of flights to take off to Rwanda. It would particularly affect those people in Northern Ireland. But nonetheless, it's all part of this wider issue about the ECHR and how that interacts with the UK legislation passed by our sovereign parliament. So we're going to have to see how all of this plays out.

“You know that I voted against that bill because I didn't feel that it was as legally watertight as I, and some of my colleagues like Sir Bill Cash who understands these matters in great detail, like Robert Jenrick, like Suella Braverman.

“We all had concerns about whether it was absolutely legally watertight.

“The truth is, over the next few months, we're going to find out. I very much hope that these flights do take off. But fundamentally all of these legal roads lead back to the ECHR. So my personal view is that the document was drafted over 70 years ago after the end of the Second World War for perfectly honourable reasons. But it's now been overtaken by events.

“I would like to see us attempt to renegotiate it. I'm sure the Italians would be up for that, the Poles and others would.

“But if that renegotiation were to fail – and I would like to see that commitment in the Tory party manifesto, by the way. And if that renegotiation were to fail, I believe we have to walk away.

“And there's no point going into a negotiation if the other side knows you're not prepared to walk away. That's what happened to Cameron.

“You would find, and get them on here and ask them, there are prominent members of the One Nation group who would sign up to that. How do I know? I've talked to them about it.

“So I think you could probably get Damian Green and I to agree that form of words or something very similar to it, going into a general election. The question is, would the Cabinet?

“We don't because we haven't seen a draft treaty [on the Gibraltar Brexit deal]. And importantly, if there's going to be a treaty, there will very likely have to be a bill. So that means debate in Parliament, which the government might be a bit anxious about.

“Sir Bill Cash’s European Scrutiny Committee, they recently wrote to the junior minister David Rutley, a very punchy letter that basically says, we are uneasy about this, particularly the sovereignty and the airport.

On the 23rd May, Lord Cameron is now giving evidence to Sir Bill’s European Scrutiny Committee, so that will be the time when they'll go for it chapter and verse. I think the real bottom line is if it's going to be a treaty, there’ll have to be a bill and that means that the whole of parliament will get involved. It could be that the government will be anxious about that. This has been the case for many years. Defence and Foreign Affairs are, if you like, reserved matters for the United Kingdom. These are all defence assets for the United Kingdom and our role in the Western alliance. So anything at all which impinges on our freedom of action to use them is completely unacceptable.”

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