Scrapping the Human Rights Act and our membership of the European Court of Human Rights won’t just enhance our security but our freedom as well, argues Rory Broomfield.
As the UK goes to the ballot box, the issues of security and Brexit are high up on the agenda. With the atrocious terrorist attacks in Manchester and London still fresh in our minds, Theresa May’s decision to call a snap election seems like a distant memory. But, the attacks over the past month have put the issue of security – and how the government protects those within the UK – high on the agenda, and has changed the nature of this campaign.
As a result of the increased importance of security within this campaign, other subjects have been swept aside. Concerns about the economy, for instance, have been seemingly relegated to an afterthought as headlines are dominated by other issues. In the final few days, however, one important concern has raised its head: human rights.
On this, and the wider issue of security, the Labour Party seems all over the place. Having just “replaced” Diane Abbott with a new potential Home Secretary – with less than 48 hours to go before polling day – Corbyn’s understanding seems to be that human rights law doesn’t need to change. This goes hand in hand with his super soft approach to other measures and policies, including shoot-to-kill and Trident.
Theresa May and the Conservatives, on the other hand, have pushed it to the front of the agenda. The Conservative Party, up until this election it seems, have had a long-held policy to repeal the Human Rights Act (HRA) and replace it with a British Bill of Rights that was “suitable for Britain”. Indeed, in their 2015 manifesto they stated that they wanted to “scrap the Human Rights Act and curtail the role of the European Court of Human Rights, so that foreign criminals can be more easily deported from Britain”. This policy agenda didn’t quite make it into the 2017 manifesto, which stated the party would, if elected, “not repeal or replace the Human Rights Act while the process of Brexit is underway”, however, Theresa May has dropped heavy hints over the past couple of days that if she is returned to Number 10 that human rights legislation will be looked at again.
The reassessment of human rights law in the UK is not just long overdue but also necessary. The Conservatives included their promises in their manifesto in 2015 because of the frustrations Mrs May, then Home Secretary, had with the both the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and its convention (ECHR) in the battle to extradite Abu Hamza.
Another key reason is that the Brexit vote last year expressed the desire of the UK population to take back control of our courts. Although the ECHR and ECtHR is not directly linked to the EU, the highest court in the EU, the European Court of Justice, has used its ruling as a “guiding principle” ever since the Maastricht Treaty came into law in the early 1990s. It means, as I’ve argued elsewhere, that to truly take back control of our legal system, we must break free from the ECtHR and ECHR.
But this doesn’t seem to be Corbyn and the Labour Party’s plan. The Labour Party have refused to change human rights laws to fight terrorism. Of course, Corbyn has form on this: having famously opposed anti-terror measures introduced over the past decade. Nonetheless, by appointing Lyn Brown, someone who voted against the invoking of Article 50, as the new Labour Party’s Shadow Home Secretary, the party have proved themselves completely out of touch and incompetent when it comes to this key issue. With the two biggest issues being Brexit and Security, to change your potential Home Secretary with only 48 hours to go until polling, and to appoint a Remoaner, smacks of stupidity and complete isolation from the real world.
The dysfunction within the Labour Party doesn’t change the basic fact that human rights legislation does need to be looked at and that the Human Rights Act, the European Court of Human Rights and the European Convention of Human Rights has held back both the security and freedom of this nation. The sooner the Government can change the legislation to allow for extradition to be easier, done quicker and for harsher sentences for terrorist sympathisers to come in, the better. Only by scrapping the Human Rights Act and leaving the ECHR and ECtHR can they do this. Only by taking back full control from European judges can Britain can be free to make its own decisions.