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2 Oct, 2023 22:14

Minister calls for UK to withdraw from human rights watchdog

Kemi Badenoch backs Suella Braverman’s proposal, which she claims is a way to deal with the tide of migrants
Minister calls for UK to withdraw from human rights watchdog

Two more members of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s cabinet have come out in favor of leaving the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The measure has been floated by Home Secretary Suella Braverman as a way to overcome legal challenges to her migration policy.

Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch told the Sunday Times that leaving the ECHR is “definitely something that needs to be on the table.” Meanwhile, Leveling Up Secretary Michael Gove told reporters at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester that the UK should “keep every option open.”

Braverman has argued for leaving the convention since mid-2022, when the European Court of Human Rights blocked the enforcement of her plan to settle refugees in Rwanda. With the ‘Rwanda policy’ stalled, the UK has had to deal with the rising number of migrants crossing the sea from continental Europe.

Sunak has so far ruled out leaving the ECHR, according to Reuters. Other members of his cabinet have argued against the idea as well. The move is not necessary to protect British borders, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said at a panel for the Onward think tank.

“As a government you have to deal with the judicial system and, were it not the ECHR, I’m sure we would have domestic judges that were trying to prevent us discharging our duty to British people,” Cleverly noted. “And left-wing activist judges, we’ve got quite a few of those in the UK.”

At the same event, Security Secretary Tom Tugendhat said he is “always happy to listen to ideas” but added he would “like to have the solutions that go along with them.” He noted that leaving the ECHR could create problems for the Good Friday Agreement (GFA), the peace treaty that ended the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

“What is the alternative for the GFA, for the devolved assemblies and administrations, what does it mean for the various different agreements we’ve struck already that are underpinned by it?” Tugendhat said.

Russia left the ECHR and a number of other conventions in January, arguing that the Council of Europe had been taken over by the US and its allies and only served Western political objectives. The following month, British media reported that London was going to follow suit, but that ended up not happening.

While the UK is the only country to ever leave the EU – when the Brexit referendum went into effect in January 2020 – it remains bound to many continental rules and legal arrangements entered over several decades, such as the ECHR. The convention was adopted in 1950 and signed by 46 Council of Europe members.