Saturday, June 25, 2022

Britain could denounce European Convention on Human Rights, No10 claims after judges blocked flight

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Several Conservative MPs have urged Britain to leave the European Convention on Human Rights, but the House of Lords would seek to block such a move

The government is also considering pulling the UK out of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) following a Conservative backlash over the Strasbourg court’s role in stopping the flight.

Ministers are trying to fill a loophole in the law that allows migrants to avoid deportation by claiming they are victims of modern slavery after the first flight meant to take asylum seekers to Rwanda was judged.

Boris Johnson has ordered a review of current migration laws to see how to avoid future flights being blocked by legal challenges, often based on the human rights of deportees.

Another tactic government officials believe is regularly used by illegal migrants is to claim that they have been trafficked and therefore deserve special protection, which can result in their deportation being delayed while their case is being investigated.

Several Conservative MPs have called on Britain to leave the ECHR, which was signed in 1950 and is separate from the EU, which would also require human rights law to be repealed.

But such a move would be fiercely opposed by both the House of Lords and some senior Tories, who have pointed to the key role Britain – including Mr Johnson’s own grandfather – played in setting up the Convention.

Other ways to use the new Bill of Rights to reduce the influence of the Strasbourg judges without abandoning the ECHR altogether.

A senior government source said I: “The European Court of Human Rights is really on the table, but there were several challenges even before Strasbourg got involved, so that’s definitely not the whole story.

“Many of these claims were made under modern slavery laws – we need to protect people who are really victims, but we need to see if changes can be made. It’s based on what works best – and in the end we might do everything.”

Attorney General Suella Braverman told the BBC: “I think what is clear is that we are in a very frustrating situation…many people will have assumed that when we left the European Union we regained control of our borders .”

Tory backbenchers lined up in the House of Commons to call for an end to the ECtHR’s grip on Britain. Daniel Kawczynski called on Home Secretary Priti Patel to start “a cabinet debate on withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights,” while Andrew Murrison suggested the court risked “losing the confidence of the British people as it seeks to corrupt our national legal structures undermine”.

Rother Valley MP Alexander Stafford condemned the “despicable judgment” by a “foreign court” and called for assurances from the Home Secretary that the government was “obligated to resettle illegal immigrants into Rwanda”.

Conservative colleagues privately warn that any move to scrap the human rights bill and leave the ECHR would be opposed by the House of Lords on the grounds that I understand it was not mentioned in the Tory Manifesto.

A former cabinet minister told I: “It’s just not possible, there is no majority for it. As with everything, Boris is a shape-shifter.” Mr Johnson backed the ECHR in the run-up to the 2016 Brexit referendum, saying: “We wrote it and actually I’m a supporter of it. I think it was one of the great things we gave to Europe. It was under Winston Churchill, it was a good idea in the post-war period.”

Some insiders believe the most likely outcome is that the Bill of Rights, due to be introduced next year, will limit the impact Strasbourg can have on UK law by clarifying that UK judges are bound by their government’s rulings not having to follow European counterparts and restricting the courts’ ability to interpret rights more broadly than Parliament intended when they were enshrined in law.

Some of those involved in Rwanda’s migration policy have suggested that ECtHR membership has little bearing on whether the flights go ahead. A Whitehall source said: “We think it’s legal and can be done within the ECHR.”

Jonathan Jones, who was the government’s chief legal adviser before resigning in protest at the threat of violations of international law in 2020, warned that the Good Friday Agreement was based on membership of the ECHR. He added: “The fact that it is even being discussed is absurd – in response to a single case in which the Strasbourg court has issued temporary measures to protect the position until the UK courts can rule on legality. That has happened many times.”

Former Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said: “I don’t think it’s right for us as a party to abandon our historic commitments to the European Convention. It was British Conservative lawyers who wrote it after the war.”

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