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MP In Northern Ireland Office Withdraws Call For UK To Ditch Key Condition Of Peace Agreement

MP In Northern Ireland Office Withdraws Call For UK To Ditch Key Condition Of Peace Agreement
3 min read

A senior MP in the Northern Ireland Office has withdrawn his call for the government to cut ties with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) after it was pointed out that the Good Friday peace deal requires the UK's participation.

Jonathan Gullis, the parliamentary private secretary to Brandon Lewis, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said the UK "needs to free itself from" the ECHR "entirely" in a Facebook post on Tuesday night.

He wrote: "It is clear that the ECHR prevented the flight from departing, after efforts in UK courts were exhausted. The ECHR has no place in the UK judicial system. The government needs to free itself from it entirely!”. 

The Conservative MP for Stoke-on-Trent North was one of numerous Tories who urged the government to walk away from the ECHR after an European Court of Human Rights intervention last night stopped the Home Office deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda. 

Gullis has since then edited the final sentence of his post, however. It now reads: "The ECHR's role in UK law needs looking at urgently!"

The Good Friday Agreement, which brought an end to decades of sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland when it was signed in 1998, requires participation in the ECHR

A source close to Gullis clarified his position, telling PoliticsHome that the "overall role" of European judges needs "further consideration" after the first flight to Rwanda was postponed.

“The Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and its interaction with the ECHR clearly has to be respected as it is integral to the peace and prosperity of Northern Ireland," they said. 

"However, it is also evident that the overall role of the European Courts in the UK needs further consideration in light of their interventions in the UK’s own border policy last night which the Government believes is entirely legal and in line with its international obligations".

Despite calls from the Tory backbenches for the ECHR to be ditched, ministers this morning played down the chances of the government taking this course of action.

Therese Coffey, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said: “I don’t think that’s even a question that I’m aware is on the table at all.” Pensions Minister Guy Opperman told Times Radio: “No, I don’t believe it’s our policy, nor is it something I would be advocating".

A spokesperson for Prime Minister Boris Johnson this afternoon refused to totally rule out walking away from the ECHR. "We haven’t ruled anything in or out at this stage," they said.

However, they added that they would do "nothing to any way jeopardise the Good Friday Agreement".

"You will know from our work on the Northern Ireland Protocol that that is at the heart of what we are seeking to protect," they said.

A UK government spokesperson added: "The Government’s commitment to the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and maintaining the hard-won gains of the peace process is steadfast and unyielding".

Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Peter Kyle said the ECHR "scaffolding" was central the Good Friday Agreement.

“Labour’s commitment to the Good Friday Agreement is fundamental, and the ECHR is the scaffolding which maintains the agreement," he told PoliticsHome.

“As these comments show, the Conservatives care more about culture wars than the Good Friday Agreement. After years of Tory neglect, a Labour government would act responsibly to protect the agreement and support peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland.”

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