Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said on Sunday that the ECHR was imposing too many “obligations on the state”. The UK Human Rights Act passed in 1998 incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law.
This was not directly impacted by Brexit as neither the Convention nor the court is part of the EU.
Mr Raab himself a lawyer, said he is formulating a mechanism to allow the government to introduce ad hoc legislation to “correct” ECHR judgements when British ministers believe they are “incorrect”.
But on Tuesday night, the EU and legal experts indicated this could “suspend the operation” of the EU and UK Cooperation Agreement.
One Brussels insider warned the move could be “seen” by European states as a move by the UK to “put the proudness of Brexit above human rights.”
Another source added: “We will be watching this very carefully.
“It could have a major impact on the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement.”
Professor Mark Elliot, Chair of the Faculty of Law at the University of Cambridge said the move raised “profound constitutional concerns”.
Jessica Simor QC from Matrix Chambers said the move would be “a step into a dark place for this country and the world.”
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Mr Raab, who served as Foreign Secretary until a September reshuffle, announced an overhaul of the UK Rights Act at the Conservative Party conference this month, calling it “nonsensical”.
He said at the time that the reforms could be achieved without the UK pulling out of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Mr Raab cited cases to The Sunday Telegraph where foreign criminals have avoided deportation by citing their right to family life under the rights act.
He also listed obligations imposed by the ECHR on military operations overseas and complained that under the current rights act, judges are required to take into account ECHR decisions when considering cases involving institutions such as the NHS state-funded health service.
Mr Raab added: “I don’t think it’s the job of the European Court… to be dictating things to, whether it’s the NHS, whether it’s our welfare provision, or whether it’s our police forces.”
He said he expected his planned reforms to be submitted for consultation in the next two months.