Sunday, June 16, 2024
HomeCulture WarOnly by quitting the ECHR can we halt illegal immigration

Only by quitting the ECHR can we halt illegal immigration


AT A campaign event in Dover this month we finally heard how Labour intend to stop the illegal Channel boat crossings if they are elected in July. In his speech, Sir Keir Starmer labelled the Conservatives’ Rwanda plan a ‘gimmick’ and ‘gesture politics’ that would not work and committed to scrap it immediately if they got into power. Instead, Labour are proposing a ‘compassionate’ and ‘progressive’ solution, which mainly involves treating people-smugglers as terrorists. Unfortunately for Britain, neither solution will work: the Conservatives’ approach is expensive and fatally flawed, whilst Labour’s plan is not even intended to work. Both parties are indulging in wishful thinking while forecasts indicate we are heading for a record-breaking year of Channel boat crossings.

The key to getting back full control of our borders lies in Westminster, not on the Dover coast. We need to leave the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Without this, there will always be a (taxpayer-funded) legal recourse open to illegal immigrants that will slow or subvert the process and prevent common sense from being applied to a fairly straightforward problem – if you come here illegally, you should be automatically detained and deported.

The ECHR was developed and agreed in the immediate post-war era to prevent the atrocities and injustices that led up to and occurred during the Second World War by establishing in international law a set of basic and universal human rights that provide protection for the individual from the state. The UK was instrumental in its design and implementation, and in March 1951 we were the first nation to ratify the ECHR.

Since its inception, the ECHR has not stood still and through judicial activism it has experienced significant ‘mission creep’ going above and beyond its original intentions to the point where it has even defined and promulgated several new rights, including for example the right to education and free elections. Recently it ruled controversially that under Article 8 of the ECHR (respect for your private and family life) the Swiss state had not adequately protected a group of elderly women complainants from the adverse effects of climate change and that this had affected their health, well-being and quality of life. This ruling has far-reaching consequences for all other signatory countries to the ECHR as it establishes a link between human rights and climate change and could be used legally to force other nation states to take greater action to combat climate change.  Many commentators cited this as an example of ‘overreach’ by the court and its judiciary.

Several Conservative MPs on the right wing of the party have made noises about leaving the ECHR, citing among other reasons tackling illegal immigration. But the overwhelming consensus of the Parliamentary Conservative Party and the Government is that we should not leave the ECHR, but instead should try to reform it. No compelling argument is ever presented for why we should not leave other than its being the status quo, that withdrawing from an international treaty would be seen as ‘regressive’ and is not a good look for a democracy as we would be joining Russia (expelled in 2022 after invading Ukraine) and Belarus (withdrew of its own volition in late 2022).

But what would be the consequences of us leaving? On the plus side, our Parliament would get back the power that we have gave up when we signed the Treaty. This will give us full control of our borders and allow us to deport immigrants who come here illegally. It will also see an end to the legitimate deportation of dangerous criminals from other countries being prevented under Article 8 because, for example, they have a claim to a family life here. The Human Rights Act (HRA) will need to be repealed as this is the Act that put the ECHR treaty requirements into UK law. This will dramatically reduce the role of the judiciary in interpreting and settling issues and questions that are purely political in nature that a semi-constitutional piece of legislation like the HRA necessitated in the way it operated and affected all other UK Laws.

On the negative side, the 1998 Belfast Good Friday agreement is underpinned by the ECHR and is intended to be a safeguard to protect the rights of both communities in Northern Ireland.  Advocates for remaining in the ECHR often cite this as a reason why we cannot leave given the history and the UK’s obligations in this area. However, given the impacts that the Windsor Framework and its predecessor the Northern Ireland Protocol have had and are having on the region, in particular regarding the primacy of EU law over UK law, this argument is now sounding hollow, even redundant. For example, the recent ruling by the Belfast High Court that large parts of the UK Illegal Immigration Act 2023 should not apply in Northern Ireland because they breach human rights laws in effect confirms that in substantive issues, it is EU rather than UK law that has primacy.

Now that an election is upon us, and in light of the growing crisis in Channel boat crossings, the two main parties need to justify to an angry electorate why neither is willing to leave the ECHR to get a grip on the situation. Both parties’ solutions are expensive and elaborate ‘workarounds’ trying to lance the boil of illegal immigration and open borders.

In the meantime, ‘picking up and taking back’ is a perfectly legal solution which will break the business model for that method of illegal immigration, while protecting lives in the Channel. For that reason alone, we should implement it immediately. But on its own, it will not act as a deterrent to future illegal immigration by other routes.

Rather, we need to withdraw from the ECHR, because it is only a fully sovereign Parliament that will be able to get back control of our borders and stem the tide of illegal immigration once and for all.

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Dan Barker
Dan Barker
Dan Barker stood as the Reform UK candidate in the 2024 Greater Manchester Mayoral election.

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