The potential decision to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is a significant issue that could have far-reaching consequences for the UK government. It has sparked a debate within the Conservative Party, with some members pressuring Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to consider leaving the convention. This move could create a major rift within the government, particularly as a general election is expected next year.
The UK’s membership of the ECHR has been criticized by some Tories who believe it hampers the government’s ability to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda. Mr. Sunak has made stopping the arrival of asylum-seekers via small boats from France a key priority. However, the Strasbourg court, which oversees the ECHR, has intervened to block the government’s efforts to deport arrivals to Rwanda. The British Supreme Court is also expected to rule on the legality of this plan by the end of the year.
While Mr. Sunak’s team expects to win the British case, if they fail, pressure to withdraw from the ECHR will likely increase. Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove and Business Secretary Kemi Badenooch have already expressed their support for discussing the UK’s membership of the convention. Home Secretary Suella Braverman has long advocated for leaving the ECHR.
The potential decision to withdraw from the ECHR is significant because the UK was heavily involved in drafting and signed the convention in 1951. Although the ECHR is not administered by the European Union, it has become a focal issue for Brexit supporters who view it as enabling foreign control of Britain’s immigration policy. If the UK were to withdraw, Mr. Sunak would need to counter accusations that the country is surrendering its leadership on the world stage.
It is worth noting that only two nations have previously abandoned the ECHR: Greece during a period of military rule, but it later rejoined, and Russia under President Vladimir Putin. The treaty’s basic principles encompass free elections, respect for property rights, and access to education.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has expressed his belief that the UK does not need to leave the ECHR to protect its borders. However, if Mr. Sunak were to withdraw, it would pose an immediate challenge as the convention is written into the peace treaty that ended decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, known as the Good Friday Agreement. Security Minister Tom Tugendhat has questioned what alternative arrangement would be in place for the agreement if the UK were to leave the ECHR.
In conclusion, the potential decision to withdraw from the ECHR is a highly significant issue that could have profound implications for the UK government. It has sparked a debate within the Conservative Party and could create a rift within the government. The decision would also have implications for the UK’s international standing and its relationship with the European Union.