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13 Oct, 2021 12:27

Britain must quit the European Court of Human Rights if it REALLY wants to stop being seen as a soft touch on migrants

Britain must quit the European Court of Human Rights if it REALLY wants to stop being seen as a soft touch on migrants

We’ve had Brexit, so why should Britain still be beholden to the ECHR? It’s preventing us from implementing tough new laws that might finally stop the constant flow of migrants entering the country illegally.

British Home Secretary Priti Patel has promised over and over again that she will get the migrant crisis in the English Channel under control. Yet just as she is attempting to push her Nationality and Borders Bill through parliament, which will at least go some way to solving the problem, up pop the human rights lawyers to throw a spanner in the works. It was as predictable as the sun coming up tomorrow. 

Among other things, Patel’s bill seeks to prevent would-be asylum seekers from entering the UK if they have travelled from a safe country… such as France. It will also introduce offshore processing of asylum applications, speed up the appeals process and removals, and ensure that those who arrive in the UK through illegal channels will have less rights than those who come via legal routes. It’s clearly designed to send out a message that the UK is not a soft touch. 

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Patel is a sworn enemy of the human rights brigade, mainly because she wants to put them out of business. During her Conservative Party conference speech last week, she complained that “if an asylum claim is rejected, there is nearly always an automatic right to appeal… even if the decision to refuse asylum is upheld, there can be yet another appeal, right up until the possibility of further appeals at the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal.”

Patel wants to put an end to this lengthy and expensive process, making her the nemesis of human rights lawyers the length and breadth of Britain. She is the bete noire of the human rights industry, mainly for her harsh language, but maybe in the near future it will be for her actions, too. 

So, it came as no surprise yesterday that a group of barristers, commissioned by a human rights organisation called Freedom From Torture, concluded that Patel’s new bill contravenes both domestic and international law in at least 10 areas. Their report stated that “this bill represents the biggest legal assault on international refugee law ever seen in the UK.” In particular they point to articles 2, 3 and 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as articles 31 and 33 of the United Nations Refugee Convention.

Now I do not have the space to go into the ins and outs of every article here, but it is worth briefly explaining what the European Convention on Human Rights is. It was drafted in the wake of World War II, and it is interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which is based in Strasbourg. In 1998, Tony Blair’s Labour government incorporated the convention into UK law through the Human Rights Act.

My view is that there is a simple answer to this riddle: rip up the Human Rights Act and withdraw from the ECHR. After all, it’s not as if the current government has anything against withdrawing from European courts or conventions. Only yesterday, Lord Frost, the UK’s Brexit negotiator, said he wanted to see the Northern Ireland Protocol rewritten to remove the European Court of Justice jurisdiction.

According to The Guardian, it is likely that human rights lawyers will challenge Patel’s bill through the courts. If they do, they are misreading the mood of the British people. The public has had enough of migrants crossing the Channel posing as asylum seekers. All they see is the country being taken for a ride and being seen as a soft touch, and they don’t care a jot for international law or foreign courts. 

All these human rights lawyers will succeed in doing is shining a light on the role of the ECHR, and I guarantee that the public will not like what it sees. Indeed, the actions of the human rights lawyers could well precipitate a national debate over whether the UK should leave the ECHR altogether. 

Personally, I think the UK should have withdrawn from the ECHR as part of Brexit. I say this because while the UK is a member of the ECHR, immigration laws can be challenged through this Strasbourg-based court. I cannot accept this is true sovereignty, as was promised in 2016. 

Moreover, if the Brexiteers who are now in government want to truly fulfil their promise to “take back control” of the UK’s borders, then they must advocate leaving the ECHR. And I believe that there is a good chance this will happen if the human rights lawyers make a mockery of democratically approved laws. 

These human rights lawyers should take note of what happened when Gina Miller, the anti-Brexit activist, attempted to prevent the will of the people being enacted through the courts. I would argue that her activities contributed to the fall of Theresa May, who wanted a soft Brexit, and her replacement by Boris Johnson, who took a firmer approach. 

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Whether the UK remains or leaves the ECHR is a political debate that is coming down the road, and the actions of out-of-touch human rights lawyers could hasten the argument. I predict that – like Miller – they are picking a fight they will win in the courts, but not in the court of public opinion, which in the end is what really matters.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.