Sunak criticised for saying border security more important than staying in European court of human rights – UK politics live | Politics

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Sunak criticised for saying border security more important than staying in European court of human rights

Good morning. There has been intense interest in when Rishi Sunak will call the general election, but much less on what he will decide to put in the Conservative party’s manifesto. That’s understandable; no one expects the Tory manifesto pledges to be implemented. But it will still have some impact on policy debate in the UK and a big, unresolved question is what it says about leaving the European convention on human rights (ECHR).

Some Tories want Sunak to commit to withdrawal. Another possibility would be to propose a referendum on leaving the ECHR. The mildest option would be to retain withdrawal as an option, depending on whether or not the European court of human rights (ECtHR), which enforces the ECHR, blocks deportation to Rwanda.

Sunak’s decision will not affect what the next government does, because there’s only a 1% chance he will be running it. But it will have some influence on whether or not one nation Tories still feel comfortable in their party, and whether or not the Conservative party aligns more closely with Reform UK.

As PM Sunak has normally not ruled out leaving the ECHR in interviews, while insisting that he can implement his Rwanda policy without needing to withdraw. After the supreme court blocked the Rwanda plan last year, he started saying he would “not allow a foreign court to block these flights”. But that seemed to be a reference to being willing to ignore ECtHR injunctions, and not a reference to full withdrawal from the convention.

Last night Sunak went further. In an interview with the Sun’s new online politics show, Never Mind the Ballots, he said border security was “more important” than remaining a member of the ECtHR.

Asked if the Conservative manifesto could include a pledge to leave the convention, he replied:

I believe that all plans are compliant with all of our international obligations, including the ECHR, but I do believe that border security, and making sure that we can control illegal migration, is more important than membership of a foreign court because it’s fundamental to our sovereignty as a country.

Sunak tends to be quite deliberate with his choice of words in interviews, and he used the exact phrase about border security being “more important than membership of a foreign court” twice in the interview. It does not answer the question about what will be in the manifesto, but it goes beyond what he has said before.

Labour politicians have criticised Sunak for his comments. This is from the Labour MP Stella Creasy.

Britain helped set up the ECHR. At the end of this week Conservative MPs will help elect judges to it on our behalf as representatives to it.

Yet rather than uphold the rule of law, this prime minister now says he’s happy to dispense with it all together. https://t.co/r0d5hRPC2u

— stellacreasy (@stellacreasy) April 3, 2024

Britain helped set up the ECHR. At the end of this week Conservative MPs will help elect judges to it on our behalf as representatives to it.

Yet rather than uphold the rule of law, this prime minister now says he’s happy to dispense with it all together.

And this is from Lord Falconer, a former Labour lord chancellor.

PM threatens to leave ECHR over Rwanda Plan. His threat undermines UK – human rights only if not too difficult politically. Time not on his side to exit ECHR. But he’s PM and puts UK’s commitment to human rights in doubt. Shame on him.

— Charlie Falconer (@LordCFalconer) April 3, 2024

PM threatens to leave ECHR over Rwanda Plan. His threat undermines UK – human rights only if not too difficult politically. Time not on his side to exit ECHR. But he’s PM and puts UK’s commitment to human rights in doubt. Shame on him.

But Tory MPs have welcomed what Sunak said. This is from Bob Seely, approving a tweet from Jonathan Gullis, the new deputy chair of the Conservative party.

And this is from Neil O’Brien.

I will post more on this debate as the day goes on. A more pressing human rights issue for the government at the moment is whether to stop arms sales to Israel, as more than 600 lawyers, including three former supreme court judges, are demanding in a letter to Sunak. Most of the coverage of that will be on our Israel-Gaza war live blog, but I will be reporting the main political developments here too.

Here is the agenda for the day.

Morning: Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, is on a visit in the east Midlands with Jonathan Reynolds, the shadow business secretary.

11am: The Green party launches its local elections campaign in Bristol.

Lunchtime: Humza Yousaf, the Scottish first minister and SNP leader, is on a visit on the Highlands.

Also, the National Education Union conference continues in Bournemouth, where the speakers include Paul Nowak, the TUC general secretary, and Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to the UK.

If you want to contact me, do use the “send us a message” feature. You’ll see it just below the byline – on the left of the screen, if you are reading on a laptop or a desktop. This is for people who want to message me directly. I find it very useful when people message to point out errors (even typos – no mistake is too small to correct). Often I find your questions very interesting, too. I can’t promise to reply to them all, but I will try to reply to as many as I can, either in the comments below the line; privately (if you leave an email address and that seems more appropriate); or in the main blog, if I think it is a topic of wide interest.

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