Still talking tough on migrants
But how much of it is spin?
Ministers are preparing a strategy of delay and prevarication to combat any attempt by the European Court of Human Rights to strike down Rishi Sunak’s new small boats legislation, The Times reports this morning.
“Even if a final ruling goes against the government, ministers still believe they are under no immediate obligation to implement the judgment, and could ignore it for years,” the report adds.
This seems a curious message to send the Strasbourg court. The Illegal Migration Bill has not yet been debated by parliament, let alone passed and implemented. Migrants who may challenge its provisions in the courts have not yet arrived in the UK. They have not exhausted their domestic remedies, let alone challenged the UK in the human rights court. And yet the government is already setting out its strategy for dealing with a possible defeat.
Under article 46 of the human rights convention, states “undertake to abide by the final judgment of the court in any case to which they are parties”. No time limit is specified; instead execution of the judgment is supervised by a body called the committee of ministers — effectively diplomats from the member states meeting in Strasbourg.
It’s true that some states drag their feet in implementing judgments. There is not a great deal the committee of ministers can do about this, apart from making a fuss. Its members will be relieved that the prime minister remains committed to keeping the UK signed up to the human rights convention. Sunak’s deputy, the justice secretary, looks increasingly isolated in continuing to suggest otherwise.
Government sources have told The Times that the Illegal Migration Bill “explicitly gives ministers the authority to ignore any future interim European Court of Human Rights rulings lodged against the government’s plan to detain and deport all migrants arriving on small boats”.
Not quite — as I explained here yesterday. I was gratified to see my analysis quoted by the Guardian and Sky News, as well as elsewhere.
As far as I can see, it suits the government to talk tough on the bill — giving the impression that it faces defeat on human rights grounds. As I suggested yesterday, the bill is much more subtle than that. Thg government believes it has a fair chance of defeating most human rights challenges. Ministers might even win in Strasbourg.
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Whilst it's good to know the bill is more subtle than the rhetoric, does this not show that we have learned nothing from Brexit? Recognizing in private that the ECHR/Strasbourg are not the problem but setting them up as a straw man for publicity's sake? All sounds rather familiar doesn't it...