European courts appear to be going easy on the UK in the run up to the Brexit referendum because they are scared of provoking voters into choosing to leave the European Union (EU).
The number of human rights cases against the British government has dropped by a third since the referendum was called, and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has also sided with Britain in a variety of disputes.
The court, based in Strasbourg, heard 1,702 cases against Britain in 2012, but that number dropped to 908 in 2013, after Prime Minister David Cameron announced there would be an EU referendum within four years.
That total fell again to 720 in 2014 and then 575 last year – a drop of 66 per cent from 2012.
The Daily Mail reports that a number of major judgements also went in Britain’s favour during this period, compared to previous years where EU judges condemned the country on issues such as the detention of Al Qaeda militant Abu Qatada, or the shooting of IRA terrorists in Gibraltar.
A spokesman for the court denied they were going easy, saying: “The statistics refer to the number of applications allocated to a judicial formation.
“The decrease coincides with the ECHR’s new stricter approach to what constitutes an application. Stricter conditions for lodging an application have been applied since January 1, 2014.”
However, UK Defence Minister Julian Brazier said: “The European institutions are going easy on Britain until they see the outcome of the referendum.
“The judges are afraid of the restoration of parliamentary sovereignty and control of our own laws.”
David Campbell Bannerman, who is one of the minority of Conservative MEPs to back Brexit, added: “They have turned the tap off for political reasons. The danger is they will turn it back on again, and if we vote to remain there will be a flood of new court rulings against Britain.”
Although the ECHR is not run by the EU, obedience to its rulings is a key requirement for member states, and its actions are often seen as part the wider interference in British life by Europe-wide institutions.