Tory challenger hits back at Welsh Secretary over criticism of plans to leave European Convention on Human Rights
An unexpected challenger to become the next Prime Minister of the UK has hit back against the Welsh Secretary after he called her plans to leave the European Convention on Human Rights an “abrogation of global leadership”.
Llanelli-born Buckland, who is MP for South Swindon, said that plans by Suella Braverman to leave the ECHR were “at best naïve” and “profoundly un-Conservative”.
The former Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice also described leaving the ECHR as “using a political sledgehammer to crack a legal nut”.
In an article for Politics Home however, Suella Braverman responded directly to his criticism, saying that the halting of flights to Rwanda which were given the OK by the UK’s own Supreme Court showed that there was a mismatch between the UK and European justice system.
“The truth is that transferring decision-making powers means you might get decisions you don’t like,” she said.
“That is what we saw recently with the grounding of the Rwanda flight. Our Supreme Court agreed that it was legal for the flight to depart. Strasbourg did not.”
She said that Buckland’s suggestion of renegotiating the ECHR wasn’t viable as that would “require a consensus between 46 member states, most of which simply don’t see the ECHR as a problem, because of their more permissive socio-legal cultures”.
“Some say – in hushed tones – why don’t we stay in and quietly breach it?” she asked, but added: “Even if we tried, the Strasbourg court would pass a Rule 39 injunction (as with the Rwanda flight), and a UK court would likely mirror that.
“It would be clear to anyone that our Rwanda policy had no hope of actually deporting anyone, and the number of illegal migrants would grow. We would be incapable of meeting our 2019 manifesto promise to ‘take control of our borders’.
“To fulfil that promise, we need to leave the ECHR, and retain the Human Rights Act, as strengthened in Dominic Raab’s British Bill of Rights. This would not harm the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, devolution, or the EU trade deal.
“The Belfast Agreement stipulates that rights should be embedded in law – that was achieved by the Human Rights Act. Likewise, devolution legislation refers to the rights in the HRA itself. Lord Frost was very careful not to bind us to the ECHR in his Brussels negotiations.
“Leaving the ECHR is the only solution which solves the problem, and is entirely consistent with international law.”
She added: “Taking this step will be controversial. Our establishment can’t conceive of a world without the ECHR. But if you ask Commonwealth lawyers or legislators from outside Europe, ‘would you want your Parliament to be second-guessed by a foreign court?’ Invariably, they would say ‘no’.
“Once and for all, we should truly bring rights home.”
In an article for the the Telegraph this week Robert Buckland had argued against leaving the European Convention on Human Rights, saying that all candidates should demonstrate their fundamental belief in what Margaret Thatcher described as “freedom under the law”.
“This means a deep-seated respect for the Crown, our United Kingdom, the judiciary and the other key institutions that underpin our democracy and society,” he said.
“The Tory party is not an iconoclastic sect, hell-bent on disruption, division and destruction. We are here to preserve the ties that bind us together, and in the case of Northern Ireland, to be good stewards of the peace process that is now nearly twenty-five years old.
“Talk of withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights, which underpins the peace process, is at best naïve and at worst an abrogation of Britain’s European and global leadership.
“It is profoundly un-Conservative and must be resisted. Instead, we should seek to reform and fix any problems, for example with immigration law, rather than following Russia out of the door.”
In an opinion piece that made no mention of his new job as Welsh Secretary, he said that the focus in the Conservative leadership race should be on “the economy, plain and simple”.
“So-called ‘culture war’ issues are important, but no-one wants to fight a war on an empty stomach,” he said.
“Any candidate worth their salt has to place themselves firmly in the shoes of the people we serve. From my own extensive conversations with constituents, friends and family, the cost of living and the prospect of an economy that is slowing down are the issues that matter.”
However, he then roamed into the ‘culture war’ himself, adding that while Conservatives “should be proud of all the diverse parts of our modern society, and that love and compassion must always prevail, we know what a woman is”.
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