The UK could withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights in an effort to push through its small boats policy – a move that has been described by the Law Society as “using a sledgehammer to crack a nut”.
The UK has been a party to the Council of Europe treaty – which established the European Court of Human Rights – since May 1949 in the aftermath of World War II.
Yet despite being a founding member that has been at the heart of the convention for over 70 years, the government appears to be considering leaving the convention to force through its policy on asylum seekers if they are blocked by the Courts.
The government intends to deport anybody who enters the UK illegally to Rwanda and signed an agreement with the African country to that effect in 2022, but until now the plan has been stifled by legal challenges. Indeed, not one deportation has yet occurred under the agreement.
When asked by ITV News whether the government would leave the ECHR to push the policy through, Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said the government will do “whatever is required”. He added:
“We believe that our current plan is in accordance with our international law obligations and the judgement in the High Court and Court of Appeal give us reason to be confident that we’ll succeed in the Supreme Court. But we don’t rule anything out – we will do whatever is necessary.”
Home Secretary Suella Braverman has previously made clear her desire to withdraw the UK from the agreement. Doing so would make the UK the first country ever to choose to leave.
“If the government wants to address problems in the asylum system, it can do so by bringing down the case backlogs and addressing the issues with the Illegal Migration Act,” pointed out Law Society of England and Wales President Lubna Shuja:
“These will not be tackled by leaving an extremely successful international agreement designed to protect individual rights and support political stability.
Leaving the ECHR would mean the UK would sit as an outlier in Europe, alongside only Russia and Belarus who are already outside of the Convention.
This would be using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, when the government already has a perfectly good nutcracker it can use.”
Human rights group Liberty also condemned the potential move on X:
The European Convention on Human Rights protects everyone in the UK
The rights and freedoms we’re all familiar with come from it
Dragging the UK out of the ECHR will allow the Government to knowingly commit human rights abuses against anyonehttps://t.co/lsyLX9ISzo
— Liberty (@libertyhq) August 9, 2023