Boris Johnson is refusing to sign up to human rights protections in any Brexit trade deal with the EU, opening the door to the UK quitting the European convention.
Speaking in Brussels after the first round of post-Brexit talks, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier told reporters that the UK “informs us that they do not wish to commit formally to applying the European Convention on Human Rights”.
UK officials confirmed that the UK did not want membership of the European Convention on Human Rights membership written into the trade agreement.
As an EU member the UK could not leave the ECHR because it was a condition of its membership; Theresa May had promised this would remain the case after the UK left, but the change of course by Mr Johnson’s administration has raised eyebrows in Brussels and elsewhere.
Opposition politicians decried the move, while Mr Barnier suggested it would limit the scope of any deal that could be struck. Officials say the EU would be reluctant to offering the UK close judicial and police cooperation without human rights safeguards.
If the UK left the European Convention on Human Rights it would be the only country in Europe not signed up to it, other than Belarus, an autoritarian dictatorship. Even Russia is a member has bound by decisions of the Strasbourg ECHR court.
Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s chief advisor, has previously suggested the UK could leave the convention.
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The UK is committed to the European Convention on Human Rights and to protecting human rights and championing them at home and abroad, but we believe that this does not require an additional binding international legal commitment.
“How the UK gives effect to its long standing strong human rights protections is a matter for the UK as an autonomous country. In the same way, it’s a matter for the EU and its member states to give effect to their own human rights protections according to their own legal orders.”
Acting Lib Dem leader Ed Davey said: “The European Convention on Human Rights empowers people to hold governments to account when Ministers trample on individual rights and freedoms. It was largely a British creation and has helped to improve people’s lives across Europe.
“Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings are determined to take power away from the British people and hoard it for themselves. Now they are weakening the UK’s Brexit negotiating position by refusing to uphold our longstanding commitments on human rights.
“Liberal Democrats will always stand up for individuals and their human rights, in the UK and around the world. We will oppose any Tory attempts to undermine the ECHR or water down the Human Rights Act.”
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