Two additional secretaries in British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s cabinet have voiced their support for leaving the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), following Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s suggestion that it could help overcome legal obstacles to her migration policy. Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch stated in an interview with the Sunday Times that leaving the ECHR is “definitely something that needs to be on the table.” Leveling Up Secretary Michael Gove, speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, claimed that the UK should “keep every option open.”
Braverman has advocated leaving the convention since mid-2022, when the European Court of Human Rights blocked the implementation of her plan to settle refugees in Rwanda. With the “Rwanda policy” halted, the UK has had to address the increasing number of migrants crossing the sea from continental Europe.
According to Reuters, Sunak has thus far “ruled out” leaving the ECHR. Other members of his cabinet have also disagreed with the idea. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly argued at a panel for the Onward think tank that such a step is unnecessary for protecting British borders. Cleverly stated, “As a government, you have to work with the judicial system, and if it were not for the ECHR, I’m sure we would have domestic judges attempting to hinder our duty to the British people. We already have a fair number of left-wing activist judges in the UK.”
While attending the same event, Security Secretary Tom Tugendhat expressed his openness to considering ideas but stressed his preference for solutions that accompany them. He acknowledged that leaving the ECHR could pose challenges for the Good Friday Agreement (GFA), the peace treaty that ended the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Tugendhat asked, “What is the alternative for the GFA, for the devolved assemblies and administrations? What does it mean for the various different agreements we’ve already made that are supported by it?”
In January, Russia withdrew from the ECHR and several other conventions, arguing that the Council of Europe had been influenced by the United States and its allies and only served Western political objectives. The following month, British media reported that London was considering following suit, but this did not materialize.
Though the UK is the only country to have ever exited the European Union, it remains bound by numerous continental regulations and legal arrangements established over the past several decades, including the ECHR. The convention was adopted in 1950 and has been signed by 46 member states of the Council of Europe.