UK proposals to amend crucial rights laws to prevent the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) from “dictating” to the UK have been downplayed by the EU.
On Sunday, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab claimed the ECHR imposes too many “obligations on the state.”
The European Convention on Human Rights is incorporated into UK law via the UK Human Rights Act of 1998.
Because neither the Convention nor the court is part of the EU, Brexit has no effect on this.
Mr Raab, who is also a lawyer, said he is working on a system that would enable the government to enact ad hoc legislation to “correct” ECHR decisions when British officials feel they are “incorrect.”
However, the EU and legal experts warned on Tuesday night that this may “suspend the operation” of the EU-UK Cooperation Agreement.
According to the Express, a Brussels insider warned that the move could be interpreted as the UK putting “put the proudness of Brexit above human rights” by European countries.
“We will be watching this very carefully,” another insider told the Telegraph, “It could have a major impact on the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement.”
The action created may cause “profound constitutional concerns,” according to Professor Mark Elliot, Chair of the Faculty of Law at the University of Cambridge.
Matrix Chambers’ Jessica Simor QC described the action as “a step into a dark place for this country and the world.”
“If the EU considers that the UK has seriously and substantially failed to respect human rights, it can terminate or suspend the operation of the EU-UK free trade agreement,” said Bart Van Vooren QC of Covington & Burling.
“Rape convictions are at historic lows, and women are rapidly losing faith in the criminal justice system, while record backlogs have left the courts at breaking point,” Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy said.
Lammy continued, “yet the priority for Dominic Raab seems to be undermining vital human rights legislation that protects us all.”
“Instead of trying to weaken the rule of law, the Tories need to set out how they plan to fix the chaos they have created in the justice system.”
Mr Raab, who was Foreign Secretary until a reshuffle in September, proposed a reform of the UK Rights Act last month at the Conservative Party conference, branding it “nonsensical.”
He said at the time that the changes could be implemented without the United Kingdom withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights.
For example, foreign offenders have evaded deportation by claiming their right to family life under the rights act, which Mr Raab highlighted to The Sunday Telegraph.
He further noted that courts are obliged to follow ECHR judgments when evaluating matters involving organisations such as the NHS state-funded health care under the existing rights legislation.
“I don’t think it’s the job of the European Court… to be dictating things too, whether it’s the NHS, whether it’s our welfare provision, or whether it’s our police forces.” Mr Raab said.
He said he expects to present his proposed changes for public comment in the next two months.