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by Margaret Taylor
17 June 2022
Comment: Shunning the European Convention on Human Rights would put us on a par with war-mongering Russia

Comment: Shunning the European Convention on Human Rights would put us on a par with war-mongering Russia

Those pesky European judges with their pesky interventions in our affairs – just when a government starts to think it can go ahead and enact its highly questionable immigration policy, along they come and throw an eleventh-hour spanner in the works.

It had all been going so well for the UK Government. Despite high-profile opposition from everyone from the Archbishop of Canterbury to – allegedly – the Prince of Wales, the UK courts had ruled that the Tory administration could go ahead with its plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

The government compiled a passenger list and booked a big old jet at vast taxpayer expense, and home secretary Priti Patel waxed lyrical about “doing the right thing” and delivering on plans to “control our nation’s borders”.

So far, so inhumane. They’d have gotten away with it too if it hadn’t been for those meddling European lawyers. Just as the token group of asylum seekers – including men from Iraq, Iran, Vietnam and Albania – was being driven to an English military base to board the flight of doom, the European Court of Human Rights put a block on the plan.

A UK court is yet to rule on whether the Rwanda policy is lawful and, while the UK Supreme Court said the deal with the Central African country allows for migrants to be returned to the UK if it is not, the European court felt otherwise. Sending anyone without that “legally enforceable mechanism” in place would be a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, the court said. 

To think we’ve gone through the pain of Brexit only for this to happen when we start to flex our taking-back-control muscles, eh? Surely, it’s the kind of thing our departure from the EU was supposed to put a stop to – that and bent bananas. That is certainly something Europe-hater-in-chief Nigel Farage (remember him?) wanted us all to believe in the run up to the Brexit vote and the Tories have hinted at it with their repeated attacks on our own Human Rights Act – a piece of legislation that incorporates the rights set out in the convention into domestic law – since.

The problem for Farage and his ilk is that the convention was drafted, debated and signed by human rights organisation the Council of Europe – of which Winston Churchill was a founding father and the UK very much remains a member – long before the EU was ever a thing. The problem for the Tories is that the UK’s membership of the council means its citizens are protected by the convention whether we have our own human rights laws or not.

This week, when asked whether the UK should withdraw from the convention given that the Strasbourg court had effectively blocked his government’s Rwanda plan, Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested it was something he would consider. “The legal world is very good at picking up ways of trying to stop the government from upholding what we think is a sensible law,” he said.

Though church leaders, leftie lawyers, royalty and right-thinkers have questioned how sensible that law is, the public at large has been broadly supportive of it. Polling from Savanta ComRes at the time the policy was announced found a little under half of the UK population to be in favour of it while only 28 per cent were opposed. Those figures have changed quite considerably in the intervening period – a YouGov poll conducted the day before the abandoned Rwanda flight was due to take off found 44 per cent of people support the plan while 40 per cent are against it – but still more people seem to like it than do not. 

Having already taken us out of the European Union on the promise it would seal our borders, Boris Johnson looks willing to take a gamble on withdrawing from the Council of Europe in a bid to appease that group and succeed where Brexit – and his government – has failed.

To do so would be to give people in the UK practically no human rights protections and put us on an equal footing with the likes of war-mongering Russia.

Is that really the kind of company we want to keep?

Read the most recent article written by Margaret Taylor - Cammy Day: 'We have a £1.5bn service need and £1.1bn to pay for it'

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