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Leaving the ECHR would be good for Britain

(Alamy)

4 min read

The government’s Rwanda Bill (now in its third iteration) has passed its second reading. Whilst the “five families” rebellion has been put off for the moment, MPs in these groups, including myself, are now waiting to see how the bill can be tightened up to ensure we have the best possible chance of seeing flights leaving to Rwanda and the number of small boats crossing the channel dropping.

The main bone of contention is that individuals will be able to pursue claims to prevent them from going to Rwanda. Whilst the argument that Rwanda is not a safe country will not (in theory) be able to be used, migrants will still be able to lodge legal challenges relating to their own circumstances. Once again, it is likely to become a lawyer’s charter with constant blocking of flights for months on end by pyjama judges in Strasbourg. 

Leaving the ECHR shouldn’t be seen as taking two steps back but three steps forward

We will find ourselves in a situation where our sovereign Parliament produces its third piece of legislation since April 2022 on the subject, only for undemocratically appointed political judges in Strasbourg to say “non” – and with that one word, they’ve stopped the removal of thousands of people who entered our country illegally. This also completely shatters the deterrent aspect of the Rwanda policy and empowers the vile people smugglers who know their trade in human misery can continue. 

If this theory is correct, in the coming months, we will once again see discussions rearing their head about why we should leave the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). This could very much be part of the answer to solving this problem. But if we were to do this, something would need to take its place. I propose this should be the British Bill of Rights. 

Up until only a few months ago, the British Bill of Rights was going through Parliament. Yet after Alex Chalk’s promotion to Lord Chancellor, the policy was quickly dropped. Whilst this bill wasn’t going to end in us leaving the ECHR, it aimed to put power back into the hands of the British people, to determine both the letter and the interpretation of British laws. 
By creating the British Bill of Rights, we could radically recalibrate the relationship between Parliament and the courts so we don’t see the thwarting of government policy in the same way again. 

The British Bill of Rights was in our 2019 manifesto, and the bill was making progress until it was pulled earlier this year. Even David Cameron, who could hardly be seen as the most radical thinker regarding our relationship with Europe, said in 2016: “We are committed in our manifesto to change Britain’s position with respect to the European Court of Human Rights by having our own British Bill of Rights.”

Invariably, this discussion ends up going onto whether our own UK Parliament, and by extension the public as you are the ones that put us here, can be trusted to leave the ECHR and make our own full-fat British Bill of Rights.

The ECHR has 18 different Articles that range from the right to life to the right to a fair trial. The idea that this, or any, British government would ditch these inalienable rights, which in most cases were a gift from Britain to the world in the first place, is thin to the point of emaciation.

In fact, we can add new rights into our Bill of Rights. These will be uniquely British ideas that we can enshrine in law. For instance, I would propose including: “Access to healthcare free at the point of use.” Whilst this is a concept alien to some people around the world, including in Europe, this is a truly British idea we can put in law. 

Leaving the ECHR shouldn’t be seen as taking two steps back but three steps forward. This should be seen as a positive step to improve the lives of the British people whilst being a part of bringing an end to human trafficking across the channel. 

 

Jake Berry, Conservative MP for Rossendale and Darwen

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