Coffee House

Could Britain quitting the ECHR persuade the Tories to stay in the EU?

29 September 2013

12:30 PM

29 September 2013

12:30 PM

David Cameron’s willingness to talk about Britain pulling out of the European Court of Human Rights while refusing to give details of what he wants back in an EU renegotiation is telling. All Cameron would say on Marr this morning about the EU renegotiation, is that he wants Britain to be exempted from ‘ever closer union’—a largely linguistic ask that, I suspect, the rest of the EU will be prepared to agree to. By contrast, he was prepared to go into far more detail about how he might change Britain’s relationship with the Strasbourg Court.


Britain no longer being rhetorically committed to ‘ever closer union’ with the rest of the EU is not going to be enough to persuade most of the Tory party to back staying in if there is a referendum. This is where the European Convention on Human Rights comes in. Though not directly related to the EU, leaving the jurisdiction of the Strasbourg Court is increasingly seen by many Tory strategists as the biggest thing they could offer the party—and the country—in a referendum. They hope that Britain leaving the European Court of Human Rights would be enough to swing most Tories behind a renegotiated membership of the EU.

There is, though, the small issue of Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats. It is almost impossible to conceive of the Liberal Democrats agreeing to Britain leaving the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. This means that any commitment to do so is going to require a Tory majority government. Indeed, today’s Marr interview did at times sound like the first round of the next set of coalition negotiations.

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Show comments
  • mrsjosephinehydehartley

    But ECHR stands for the European Convention on Human rights, not the European court of human rights, actually.

    I understand the ECHR actually improves one’s position in the first place – ie an ordinary member of the public here in the UK.


    THE EURO HAS KI-BOSHED EVER CLOSER UNION. We have centuries of ECONOMIC HISTORY to tell us that S will not GROW until LEAVES EURO.
    Even the once great trading nation of Holland cannot grow & the Economist A YEAR AGO did special issue ‘FRANCE ticking time-bomb AT THE HEART OF EUROPE’.
    If include Bundesbank effectively compulsory loans to S central banks FRG are on the hook for 1 TRILLION – IF 1/4 write-down 250 MILLION – about 1/3 FRG’s ANNUAL BUDGET.

  • Mynydd

    If Mr Cameron was a leader he would placed before parliament details of the powers he will base his renegotiation on. However we know Mr Cameron is only a follower and doesn’t do detail hence the remark ‘ever closer union’ He would have made more sense if he had said, Britain and France are moving ever closer, the Straights of Dover are getting narrower every year due to climate change.

  • Jane Young

    This has nothing to do with the EU & everything to do with the Tories’ desire to have their own way & remove protection from citizens who need it – disabled, sick, poor & older people.

    • Greenslime


      And what, pray, do you base such a stupid blanket statement on?

      • Jane Young

        The experience of a great many sick & disabled people under this Government, plus the fact that the Human Rights Act and ECHR protects many more disabled, sick and old people than it protects terrorists. And, of course, legal aid cuts will make sure it’s much harder for ordinary citizens to fight the power of the state via judicial review. There’s loads of evidence for my assertion but I need to go out now…

  • Tom Tom

    This is BS. All he has to do is revoke the treaty which commits the British Government to implement Court judgments. It has nothing to do with the court itself but the separate treaty accepting its judgments as binding. Anyway it would not matter as the same judgment would enter UK law through EU legal jurisdiction

  • Lordmuck

    The answer to the question is ‘no’.

    I don’t think its possible and it will just encourage the Conservative Eurosceptics to demand more concessions.

    Cameron should’ve lanced this boil years ago, instead he’s trying to bend this way and that like a contortionist.

  • chudsmania

    Cameron is all talk . He wants to be in the EU without ever closer union. The EU would stab us in the back even more than it does now. Plus , we would have a West Lothian style question completely unpalatble to our electorate.

  • Jon Danzig

    David Cameron’s reasons for wanting to leave the European Convention on Human Rights do not make sense to me. Article 8 of the Convention might appear to provide a ‘right’ for foreign criminals to stay in the UK, but in realty this ’right’ is only upheld in ‘exceptional’ cases.

    For example, in 2010, 5,235 foreign national criminals were deported from the UK, but according to the Court Service, only 102 won appeals to stay here because of Article 8. That’s just 2% of deportations. The vast majority of appeals by foreign criminals to avoid deportation fail.

    The Article 8 ‘right to private life’ can be overridden in the interests of national security; public safety; the economic well-being of the country; the prevention of disorder or crime; the protection of health or morals, and the protection and freedoms of others. In other words, Article 8 does not guarantee a right of a
    foreign criminal to stay in this country. It should also be understood that the Human Rights Act doesn’t prevent criminals from being correctly prosecuted, or imprisoned if they are found to be guilty.

    So, either our judiciary is not properly interpreting the Human Rights Act, or else
    these cases are not being properly, or fully, reported in the media, or by Conservative politicians.

    Those who understand why it was essential to establish human rights conventions after the abject horrors of the Second World War will surely not want to see them diluted or undermined. We need to ensure that human rights are properly understood, and legitimately interpreted and upheld.

    Would a UK-only Bill of Rights vary to the European Convention on Human Rights?
    It seems unlikely. The only difference might be that if the British government is in breach of our human rights, we might in future lose the right to refer such cases to an international court to sit in ultimate judgement, and that would surely be a backward step.

    See my article on why we mustn’t abandon human rights: ‘The photo that alerted the world’

    • Alexsandr

      well unless we leave the EU we wont have a national parliament with any power.

      • Jon Danzig

        We still have our national sovereignty and our Parliament. The percentage of British laws originating from the European Union is 8-10 per cent, as calculated by The House of Commons Library, a non-partisan organisation. This is similar to other EU countries, such as Finland (12 percent), Austria (10 percent), Sweden (6 percent) etc.

        The European Parliament is democratically elected and decides nearly all EU laws, and has the democratic power to dismiss the entire commission of the European Union.

        The EU Parliament is made up of 754 members, elected every five
        years by the citizens of all 27 member countries of the European Union. It’s one of the world’s largest democratic assemblies,
        representing over 500 million citizens. The Parliament has elected representatives from all the main political parties in Europe – conservatives, socialists, liberals, greens, variants of the extreme
        left and extreme right, as well as anti-European parties, such as UKIP. The seats are shared proportionately to the population of each member country. Members of the European Parliament discuss and decide vital issues aimed to improve the lives of all citizens of the EU, including consumer protection, the environment, transport, culture, education and health.

        Please see my article, ‘The value of being citizens of Europe’

    • Russell

      Only 102 CRIMINALS were allowed to remain in the UK because of the ECHR! What is this only?

      Every convicted foreign criminal should be deported, on top of which, no convicted criminal should be allowed into the country, or any illegal immigrants allowed to remain here, full stop.
      Time to take care of the human rights of the British people who obey our laws, and are not criminals. They have a right to be protected from foreigners who would do either us harm or our country harm.

      • Jon Danzig

        Human Rights are meant to be universal, and to apply to all humans; to you and to me; even to criminals and foreigners, and to those humans we do not like. Once we take basic rights away from one human, we start to erode the basic protections for all humans.

        Maybe you would feel differently if you or a loved one was arrested in a country where they do not adhere to Human Rights, and then see how you are treated. Before commenting on the 102 foreign criminals who won the right not to be deported from the UK because of Human Rights issues, perhaps you should review the circumstances of each case. These cases were exceptional and not frivolous. The vast majority of foreign prisoners who try to avoid deportation under the Human Rights Act fail.

        Do you think the UK police would act more fairly if we abandoned the Independent Police Complaints Commission? Even with the IPCC there have been well known instances of abuses by the police that afterwards they tried to cover up; and those are only the ones we know about, and then often only by accident (i.e. a tourist filming police abuse).

        I’d like you to read the story I wrote last week about Dr Michael Siegel and the way the police treated him in Germany in the early
        1930s, just days after the newly elected government ‘suspended’ civil rights. The link is at the bottom.

        Instead of diminishing Human Rights, we should be strengthening them. If the UK government breached your Human Rights, don’t you think that you should have the right, as you do currently, to appeal to an international court in ultimate judgment, rather than only a UK national court, as the government is now proposing? Do you really think your, and my, Human Rights will be better protected if the UK government withdraws from international conventions and tries to deal with these matters exclusively on home turf? Do you trust our governments that much?

        I take Human Rights issues very seriously. Those in the media and politics who try to frivolously – and falsely – claim that foreign prisoners have the right to stay here under Human Rights laws because, for example, they have a cat, do a great disservice to the life-and-death issues that Human Rights really are all about. The International Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has a bad press in Britain, but for thousands of desperate people it is their last shot at justice.

        I am the son of an asylum seeker. If Britain had not let in my father, as they almost didn’t, he would have faced certain death, as did his parents – my grandparents – who were left behind. Human Rights are too precious to demean or degrade. In this world, we need Human Rights more than ever, and we need Britain, a country historically famous for its liberal and compassionate values, to be leading the way and upholding international conventions on Human Rights, and not withdrawing from them as if they are of little consequence.

        Read my article, ‘The photo that alerted the world’. What happened then can happen again.

    • Tom Tom

      It takes an address of both Houses of Parliament to remove a Judge

    • Tom M

      Really. So why did it take so long to get rid of Abu Qatada then?

      • Jon Danzig

        At the outset, let me make perfectly clear that I am not a fan or supporter of Abu Qatada. Not at all. But the reason why it took so long to deport him seems simple enough, although often poorly reported by the media and some politicians. Under the Human Rights Act, every one, every human, has the right to a fair trial, without discriminating evidence that has been obtained through torture.

        Would you expect anything less for yourself? If someone under torture made statements that you had committed a heinous crime, would you consider that evidence against you to be safe or fair? Would you be willing to be deported to another country, or even back to your home country, based on such accusations against you that had been obtained under torture?

        Article 3 of the Human Rights Act contains an absolute prohibition of torture. Article 6 of the Human Rights Act guarantees the right to a fair trial. Isn’t this a basic right that all of us should have? If this right can be taken away from one human, why wouldn’t you worry that it could also be taken away from you? The only way for all of us to
        feel fully protected under Human Rights Conventions is to know that they apply to all humans, without any exceptions.

        Human Rights courts could not allow the deportation of Abu Qatada to Jordan whilst there was any possibility that the evidence against him was obtained through torture. Only when the UK government reached a belated agreement with Jordan, that any evidence derived from torture would be disallowed in any trial, was the deportation able to go ahead. And then, guess what? Abu Qatada flew back to Jordan voluntarily of his own consent and accord, without any need to deport him.

        So the question surely to ask is: why did the UK government keep trying to deport Abu Qatada when they knew that such a deportation could not be allowed if the evidence against him was obtained through torture? And why didn’t the UK government reach an
        agreement with Jordan many years earlier, allowing Abu Quatada to be deported and stand trial considerably sooner? It would have saved the British taxpayer a huge fortune.

        For a fuller explanation, read this article:

        • Tom M

          You are confusing principle and practice. The principles to which you refer are exemplary and beyond reproach.
          If however the practical application of these principles is so convoluted, even for the lawyers to understand then there is something wrong with the way the law has been written.

          • Jon Danzig

            But because of a possible misconception about the practise, we are in danger of losing those exemplary principles. Much that’s been reported by some media and politicians about abuses of Human Rights law appear to be either incorrect or exaggerated. Also, if the European Convention on Human Rights is such a problem for us, why isn’t it for other EU countries? We would be the only country to abandon the Convention that we invented in the first place.

    • Bert3000

      None of it makes sense to anybody. The conservative party has completely lost its marbles.

  • Lady Magdalene

    We can’t leave the ECHR and remain in the EU. The Lisbon Treaty requires EU members to submit to the ECHR.

    • Radford_NG

      Quite so.Someone hasn’t done their homework.

      • Sam

        I agree. I was quite flabbergasted by the woeful legal inaccuracies perpetuated in this article.

  • Alexsandr

    how can this work? The ECHR is part of the council of Europe, a body with a larger membership than the EU. So to withdraw from the ECHR, we would have to leave the council of Europe. Remember the ECHR is not part of the EU
    But membership of the ECHR and the Council of Europe is a pre-requisite of membership of the EU.

    • Alexsandr
      • Tom M

        Thanks for the link but it didn’t help, it just confused me and confirmed my resolve that the best thing to do is get rid of the whole parasitical structure.

    • Radford_NG

      Under the terms of the Lisbon Treaty;which is the EU Constitution [rejected by the Danes] under a new name.