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  • Dr Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos

The threat to the Human Rights Act and the ECHR is alive and well

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) did not receive much attention in the context of the UK-EU negotiations on the future relationship, as a potential stumbling block, even if Michel Barnier highlighted, more than once, that the UK was refusing to commit to the Convention as an essential element in any future partnership.

It is now transpiring that the Prime Minister "is preparing to opt out of major parts of European human rights laws" and "open [a] second confrontation with [the] EU" following on the threat to break international law with the enactment of the Internal Markets Bill.

BiE director, Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, has recently provided detailed analysis - in the latest issue of the European Human Rights Law Review - on how the Conservative party's hostile approach to the ECHR and future steps on Brexit are closely interrelated, concluding that "the threat to the Human Rights Act and the ECHR is alive and well".

The abstract in the journal notes:

The Conservative party’s policy on the Human Rights Act (HRA) and the European Convention on Human Rights has, in recent years, mutated from direct political aggression (with the pledge to repeal the Act in the 2015 manifesto)1 to a strategy of creating ambiguity and chipping away at its democratic legitimacy (with the 2017 and 2019 manifestos). In the latest development in the saga of UK hostility towards the ECHR and the HRA, Britain has refused to commit to the ECHR as an essential element in any future partnership with the EU. This article examines the significance of this development, deducing from it that the Eurosceptic right in the UK quite openly spies another chance to fulfil its long-held ambition of getting rid of European human rights, having identified Strasbourg as the next target in the project to "take back control". The article also contends that the magnitude of the risk that the HRA and ECHR are facing in the UK post Brexit cannot be fully grasped absent an analysis of how deep a Eurosceptic, anti-human rights, executive sovereignty-centred ideology now runs within the governing party. The article undertakes such analysis with reference to some of the Eurosceptic, anti-human rights ideologues in the Conservative party. It concludes by bringing into focus the potential impact of two external developments — the Covid-19 crisis, and the election of Sir Keir Starmer as leader of the opposition — upon the future of the HRA and the ECHR in the UK.

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