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Britain Will Remain Subject to European Court of Human Rights Under a Tory Government

Plans to leave the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and end the European Court of Human Rights’ jurisdiction over Britain have been scrapped in the Conservative Party manifesto.

The document, titled ‘Forward, Together‘, does rule out incorporating the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights into UK law, but also confirms that a Tory Government “will not repeal or replace the Human Rights Act while the process of Brexit is underway”.

It also confirms that the party would “remain signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights for the duration of the next parliament”.

Whilst the ECHR and the European Court of Human Rights are not technically European Union institutions, previous governments have indicated that they are an essential component of EU membership in practice.

“In my view, it is in practice not possible [to leave the ECHR and remain in the EU],” Lord Falconer told Parliament in 2006.

“I say ‘in practice’ because the EU has made it clear that they expect all members to adhere to the ECHR. Indeed we make it a condition as a European Union before anybody who is new joins in …. to all intents and purposes, I believe it is not possible to be a member of the EU and to have left or denounced the ECHR.”

The Tories’ commitment to the ECHR came as a surprise, as the prime minister was expected to fight the election campaign on a platform of taking Britain out of the convention and scrapping Labour’s controversial Human Rights Act, which has helped dozens of terrorists  remain in the country.

Mrs May conceded that the ECHR “makes us less secure” and “adds nothing to our prosperity” in April 2016 – but those who suggested she only aspires to take Britain out of the convention “eventually” now appear to have been prescient.

Whilst some commentators believe the ECHR is a “vital document”, granting citizens the right to a fair trail, freedom from torture, and more, others have been given pause by its substance.

For example, Article 10 of the ECHR, which nominally provides for the right to Freedom of Expression, contains the following caveats:

“The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.”

In this way, the small print of many ECHR articles which appear to protect freedoms does, in fact, provide governments with broad scope to curtail citizens’ rights.

Follow Jack Montgomery on Twitter: @JackBMontgomery

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