What impact will Brexit have on the ECHR?

Unless you have been hiding in the shadows, you will be aware that on the 24th June 2016, the result of Brexit was announced. Britain voted to leave the European Union. It is estimated that if Britain triggers Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union this month, it could be free of the European Union by 2019, but what would that mean for human rights and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)?

The ECHR was drafted by the Council of Europe and currently has 47 Member States, the UK being one such State. The ECHR sets out fundamental human rights such as freedom of expression and the prohibition of torture, and ensures these rights are protected by its Member States. The ECHR is enforced by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and is a separate entity from the EU. Therefore by leaving the EU, Britain isn’t free of the ECHR.

If Britain wish to opt out of the ECHR, the Human Rights Act 1998 (which partially integrates the ECHR into domestic law) would have to be repealed. There is some domestic law in place protecting human rights in Britain, such as the Bill of Rights 1698 but this afford citizens a weaker protection than the ECHR.

If Britain left both the EU and the ECHR, there arguably could be a void in human rights legislation. They would be erasing long standing precedent on human rights in their jurisdiction. A new British Bill of Rights has been suggested to remedy this problem. However, an unimaginable amount of consideration would have to go in to such legislation, if it were to effectively replace a major framework such as the ECHR. Critics have expressed fears that a Bill of Rights would weaken the rights afforded to citizens.

It has been suggested that following her 2020 election campaign, Prime Minister Theresa May will set the ball rolling for Britain to leave the ECHR. The rights currently conferred under the ECHR would be instead protected under domestic British law and would be enforced by the Supreme Court, rather that the ECtHR in Strasbourg.

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Westminster & the Houses of Parliament                                               Image-Unsplash

May stated:

 “…..my view is this: if we want to reform human rights laws in this country, it isn’t the EU we should leave but the ECHR and the jurisdiction of its court.”

The ECtHR has been condemned by critics who deem it to hinder nation sovereignty and who are frustrated with it for preventing Member States from deporting terrorists and people who pose a threat to them. They are of the belief that it has too much power in governing domestic policy. The Prime Minister was at odds with the ECtHR when she was acting as Home Secretary when it prevented her deporting the radical cleric, Abu Qatada.

Supporters of the ECtHR recognised the vast work the Court have done in recognising the rights of people and especially of marginalized groups within society. Such groups believe that withdrawing from the ECHR would have a significant impact on Britain’s international footing.

It is worth considering that the ECHR was also a major element of the Good Friday agreement in Northern Ireland. Withdrawing from the Convention would undoubtedly cause controversy.

Alternatively, once Britain has cut ties with the EU and if it chooses not to repeal the Human Rights Act,  they will continue to be governed by the ECHR which is arguably a safer and more robust option.

What do you think is the best option for Human Rights in Britain? IS the best option to withdraw from the ECHR or is remaining in it a safer option? Let me know in the comments.

Featured Image: Pixabay – https://pixabay.com/en/brexit-exit-united-kingdom-england-1481028/

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