The future of Britain’s commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights could be in jeopardy following the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, leading experts have said.
Sir Paul Jenkins QC, a barrister at Matrix Chambers and former head of the Government Legal Department, told the Gazette that the Brexit vote ‘seriously increases’ the chances of the UK opting to leave the ECHR.
He said: ‘In law and in logic the two are not linked but I think the political reality is that if the public saw a vote to leave as a step towards reclaiming our independence as a British nation why wouldn’t they at the same time want to reclaim our independence on Strasbourg?’
Professor Neil Parpworth, a law professor specialising in human rights at De Montfort University, said the future of the UK’s commitment to the ECHR will ultimately depend on who succeeds David Cameron as prime minister.
He noted that Home Secretary Theresa May, among the favourites to take over as the next leader, has come out against the convention. She recently said the ECHR can bind the hand of parliament while adding nothing to our prosperity.
Parpworth added that while justice secretary and prominant leave campaigner Michael Gove has spoken positively about the convention, he has previously stressed that nothing is off the table if the UK did not succeed in getting the European Court of Human Rights reformed.
Parpworth suggested that leaving the convention could be portrayed by the next leader as a further means by which the UK is able to ‘take back control’.
Human rights barrister Adam Wagner, from One Crown Office Row, tweeted that he ‘feared’ for the convention following the vote and speculated Britain may now seek to leave it.
‘No appetite immediately, but it’s part of many in Brexit camp’s overall plan,’ he added.
Professor Mark Elliott, professor of public law at the University of Cambridge, said it was now ‘open season’ on the ECHR.