Suella Braverman sparks new government row after calling for UK to quit ECHR

Home secretary slapped down for ‘personal views’ on European Convention on Human Rights

Adam Forrest
Wednesday 05 October 2022 10:02 BST
Suella Braverman says seeing a plane taking off to Rwanda is 'her dream'

Home secretary Suella Braverman has sparked a new government row after calling for the UK to leave the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The cabinet minister said Britain should “ultimately” leave the landmark convention, though she said it was her personal view and acknowledged it was not government policy.

A senior government source poured scorn on her freelancing efforts, amid a series of chaotic rows within Liz Truss’s government at the Tory conference.

“As Suella acknowledged, her personal views are contrary to government policy and if she wishes to make those views known within government she should do so in a more appropriate setting,” the government source said.

Ms Braverman told a Spectator event at the Tory conference: “I was pretty blunt about this issue in my leadership campaign. My position personally is that ultimately we do need to leave the European Convention on Human Rights.”

She added: “That is not government policy, I should say, government policy is to do everything we can within the convention, within the boundaries of the convention. But if that doesn’t work, then we will have to consider all options.”

Going further, the home secretary said the UK should not be “subject to an institution born out of the post-war era which is a bit analogue in the way that it operates”.

Suggesting her views were shared by those who voted for Brexit, she added: “I don’t think that’s the direction that the world is going in, that’s not the direction that people called for with Brexit.”

Withdrawing as a signatory to the convention, which is interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights, would be a radical step.

It would put the UK in the same company as Vladimir Putin’s regime after Russia announced in March it would cease to be party to the convention and was ending jurisdiction of the European court.

An intervention by the European court contributed to the grounding of the first flight under the government’s policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda.

In her main conference speech, Ms Braverman said migrants crossing the Channel will face a ban from claiming asylum in Britain.

She also told conference it was her “dream” to see asylum seekers put on a one-way flight to Rwanda, saying she was “obsessed” with the idea.

Her promised new laws – which go further than the Nationality and Borders Act which came into force in June – will impose a blanket ban on anyone deemed entering the UK illegally from seeking refuge.

The announcement marks the latest attempt by the government to curb the growing numbers of Channel crossings after its flagship policy to send migrants on a one-way trip to Rwanda stalled amid the legal challenges.

So far this year more than 33,500 people have arrived in the UK after making the journey from France.

Ms Braverman told the conference in Birmingham the law “simply isn’t working” and legislation was being “abused” by people smugglers, and – taking aim at lawyers – by “specialist small boat-chasing law firms”, adding: “This cannot continue.”

Campaigners condemned the plan as further “attacks” on “genuine refugees” and branded them a “blatant breach” of Britain’s international obligations under the Refugee Convention.

Clare Mosley, founder of refugee charity Care4Calais, said the proposal was “barbaric and unnecessary” while claiming the government’s rhetoric on Channel crossings was “simply false”.

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, branded the proposals “deeply worrying and out of step with the majority of the public who support giving refugees protection”.

Setting out her intention to ensure UK immigration policy is not “derailed” by modern slavery laws, the Human Rights Act or the European court, Ms Braverman also said she would “work closely with the French to get more out of our partnership”.

Ms Braverman insisted it was not “racist” to “want to control our borders”, or “bigoted to say that we have too many asylum seekers who are abusing the system”.

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