28th Oct 2016

British minister: UK might quit European rights court

Interior minister Theresa May has said the UK should consider leaving the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg for the sake of national security and British sovereignty.

Speaking at an event organised by Conservative Home, a think tank, over the weekend, she said: "By 2015 we'll need a plan for dealing with the European Court of Human Rights. And yes, I want to be clear that all options - including leaving the [court's] convention altogether - should be on the table."

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

She added: "When Strasbourg constantly moves the goalposts and prevents the deportation of dangerous men like Abu Qatada, we have to ask ourselves, to what end are we signatories to the convention? Are we really limiting human rights abuses in other countries? I'm sceptical. But are we restricting our ability to act in the national interest? Are we conceding that our own Supreme Court is not supreme? I believe we are."

The ECHR caused controversy in the UK last year by blocking the deportation of Qatada, an Islamist preacher, to Jordan for fear it might try him using evidence obtained by torture.

It prompted an earlier uproar by ruling that British prisoners should have the right to vote.

May's speech is seen by British analysts as an appeal to right-wing voters and right-wing politicians in the Conservative Party ahead of 2015 elections.

It comes after a recent surge in popularity by the anti-European UK Independence Party (Ukip).

It also comes after Tory leader David Cameron promised to end British co-operation with EU-level crime-fighting structures, such as the European Arrest warrant, in the island nation's broader decoupling from the European mainland.

Previous Tory hints on quitting the ECHR have attracted criticism from the government's pro-European coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, and from top jurists.

The British attorney general, Dominic Grieve, last October noted that Belarus, a human rights pariah, is one of the few European states which has stayed out of the convention.

"It would put us in a group of countries that would make very odd bedfellows," he said at the time.

The ECHR itself, which acts as a last recourse for human rights victims, but which struggles to implement its rulings in repressive countries, such as Russia, has also voiced concern that a British exit would harm its work.

Speaking to EUobserver back in 2011, at the time of the prisoner vote dispute, Thorbjorn Jagland, the secretary general of the court's parent institution, the Council of Europe, said a British exit could see other countries follow.

"I think one has to think about the consequences of such an act. It could be the starting point of undermining the whole convention system that we have built up in Europe ... If one country starts to opt out of the convention system and the court, it could be the start of a process that others will follow," he said.

EU extends internal border checks

Austria, Denmark, Germany, Sweden and Norway granted three-month extensions on border controls despite fall in migrant numbers.

News in Brief

  1. Budget commissioner Georgieva takes up World Bank post
  2. Walloon parliament votes to accept Ceta
  3. Euro deficit to fall below 2% next year, commission says
  4. Migration and security top Germany's EU agenda
  5. EU finance rules need 'neutral' enforcer, Germany says
  6. Northern Ireland court rejects Brexit case
  7. EU tables Atlantic sea bass fishing ban
  8. EU states issue record number of residence permits

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersUN global sustainable development goals, integration, and security on agenda for Nordic Council Session 2016
  2. Taipei EU OfficeTaiwan Seeks to Join Fight against Global Warming
  3. ANCI LazioAnci Lazio Definetely has a lot to Celebrate This Year
  4. EU-China ForumDebating the Future of the EU-China Relations on 28 November in Prague
  5. COMECEMigrants: From Fear to Compassion
  6. Birdlife EuropeBusiness as Usual - Juncker Snubs Environment and Protects Broken CAP
  7. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  8. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  9. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  10. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  11. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  12. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament

Latest News

  1. Belgium green lights unchanged Ceta
  2. Poland rejects EU 'interferences' on rule of law
  3. On-road emissions tests: How EU failed to change to the fast lane
  4. Dutch PM asks opposition's help on Ukraine agreement
  5. Wallonia's heroic stand against Ceta is a stand for democracy
  6. Calais children abandoned at former camp site
  7. Greece to probe UN allegations of illegal returns
  8. Poland defies EU on rule of law