Theresa May Seeks to Pull UK from European Convention on Human Rights

British Prime Minister Theresa May will campaign to withdraw the United Kingdom from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in 2020, according to new reports.

May is expected to make the withdrawal a central mandate of her campaign to be formally voted into office in 2020. She became the unelected leader of the U.K. after former Prime Minister David Cameron stepped down in July following the Brexit referendum.

The new conservative government is also separately seeking to replace its current Human Rights Act—the U.K.’s implementation of the ECHR—with a new set of rules which critics say actually cracks down on free speech and peaceful protest.

While the convention is presided over by the European Court of Human Rights, May’s proposed bill of rights would not be beholden to an outside judiciary.

As the Independent explains, May “is looking to break off all relations with the court.”


“We urge the prime minister to spend her time trying to protect our rights, not do away with them,” the British organization Liberty Human Rights said in response to reports on May’s plans.

The group’s director, Martha Spurrier, tweeted that the plans were “deeply irresponsible [and] frighteningly unprincipled,” and put the prime minister on the wrong side of history.

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Critics also warned that leaving the ECHR could be disastrous for the peace process in Northern Ireland, saying a withdrawal was akin to “playing with fire.”

May initially floated the proposal while still serving as home secretary. At the time, shadow justice secretary Charles Falconer called the plans “so ignorant, so illiberal, so misguided…there has to be a source external to a government determining what human rights are.”

“It will so damage the standing of the U.K., a country that above all plays by the rules and that is going around the world saying we should comply as a world with human rights,” Falconer said in April. “This is so, so appalling.”

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