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Law in the News: Will We Exit the European Convention on Human Rights?

AQA, OCR, Eduqas, WJEC

Last updated 5 May 2023

Drafted in 1950 by the newly formed Council of Europe, the European Convention on Human Rights aims to protect human rights of residents of those countries who signed up to it and only Greece and Russia have ever left it. Now however Rishi Sunak may be contemplating this for us.

Why do this?

Leaving the ECHR is currently being debated in political circles. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, backed by Home Secretary Suella Braverman, wants to deliver a hard line on illegal immigrants. Cracking down on immigration is a big priority for the party, as this seems to be growing year on year. Sunak wants to ban anybody who comes to the UK irregularly from applying for asylum and wants to deport them as soon as possible. These plans last year were scuppered when in June first deportation flights to Rwanda were halted after intervention under the ECHR. This pushing of the boundaries of the ECHR to stem illegal migrants has not delivered the results Sunak desires and it is therefore thought that withdrawal from the ECHR would prevent this interruption and bring our borders back under our control.

How can this be done?

Article 58 of the ECHR does allow member states to leave on six months notice, of which Russia did. However, as was seen in the UK when trying to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union to leave the EU, domestic legislation was necessary. Any plans to introduce this to exit the ECHR would be far from easy however and would likely be blocked by the House of Lords, as this was not in the Conservative manifesto and electoral support would be unknown. This could of course lead to this being an important point to be included in any election manifesto if it is thought this will be supported by the masses.

Is this supported?

There are concerns about leaving the ECHR as the UK was so instrumental in its drafting and implementation. There are also worries that this could erode the rule of law and the idea that “no one is above the law” and can be seen to be a red line for many Conservatives. The proposed UK Bill of Rights put forward under the Liz Truss administration, which created a new stage in proceedings, where if individuals wished to challenge human rights legislation they have to request permission, did not go anywhere, will this proposal to exit the European Convention Human Rights?

Author: Gemma Shepherd-Etchells

Questions time:

  • What was the background to the implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights?
  • Do you think that we should replace the ECHR with a UK Bill of Rights?

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