Leaving the ECHR

Should the UK leave the confines of the ECHR? And if so, what next?

The relationship between the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and national sovereignty has long been a subject of debate and scrutiny. The ECHR, established under the auspices of the Council of Europe, plays a crucial role in safeguarding human rights across its member states. However, as it seeks to enforce a common standard of human rights protection, tensions arise with the principle of national sovereignty – the idea that each nation should have the authority to govern itself without external interference.

ECHR Overview

The ECHR, based in Strasbourg, France, was established in 1959 and serves as a judicial body for individual complaints of human rights violations in the 47 member states of the Council of Europe. The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, also known as the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), is the legal foundation upon which the Court operates.

Challenges to National Sovereignty

Binding Decisions:
One of the primary challenges the ECHR poses to national sovereignty is its power to issue binding decisions that member states are obliged to implement. These decisions often involve complex and sensitive issues, and governments may find themselves compelled to modify their laws or practices in line with the Court's rulings.

Interpretation of Rights:
The ECHR has the authority to interpret the provisions of the Convention. While this ensures a consistent application of human rights standards, it also means that national courts may be bound by interpretations that differ from their own legal traditions or cultural norms.

Margin of Appreciation:
The concept of the 'margin of appreciation' allows member states some leeway in implementing human rights standards, recognizing that diverse cultural, historical, and social contexts may require different approaches. However, the scope of this margin is a matter of ongoing negotiation and contention.

Benefits of ECHR

Uniform Protection:
The ECHR provides a unified framework for the protection of human rights, ensuring a baseline standard across member states. This contributes to a more consistent and harmonized approach to human rights protection in Europe.

By holding member states accountable for violations of the Convention, the ECHR serves as a crucial mechanism to prevent abuses of power and protect individuals from human rights infringements. This contributes to the overall strengthening of the rule of law.

Cross-Cultural Dialogue:
The ECHR promotes a cross-cultural dialogue on human rights, fostering a shared understanding of fundamental freedoms among member states. This exchange can contribute to a more inclusive and tolerant European society.

Striking a Balance:
Finding the right balance between the enforcement of universal human rights and respecting national sovereignty is a complex task. Striking this delicate balance requires ongoing dialogue and cooperation between the ECHR and member states. National governments must be allowed the space to address human rights challenges within their unique contexts, while the ECHR must ensure that fundamental rights are not compromised.

ECHR and the UK

The relationship between the ECHR and national sovereignty is a dynamic interplay that reflects the challenges inherent in balancing the need for universal human rights protection with the autonomy of individual nations. As the ECHR continues to evolve and adapt to new challenges, it is essential to foster a cooperative spirit that respects both the shared values of the Convention and the diverse cultural and legal traditions of its member states. Ultimately, the aim should be to create a harmonious system that upholds human rights without unduly compromising national sovereignty.

The concept of human rights has deep historical roots, and while the Magna Carta is often considered a foundational document in the development of legal principles, it is not specifically a 'human rights' charter in the modern sense. However, the English legal tradition did contribute to the evolution of human rights principles over time.

Why Leave The ECHR?

There are five main reasons to leave the ECHR against ECHR supporters.

National Sovereignty it would allow the UK to reclaim full control over its legal system without being subject to rulings and decisions made by an international court, such as the European Court of Human Rights.

Parliamentary Supremacy decisions made by the European Court of Human Rights might be seen as interfering with the legislative process and the ability of the UK Parliament to make and change laws without external constraints.

Interpretation of Rights decisions made by the European Court of Human Rights may not always align with the cultural and legal traditions of the UK, and leaving the ECHR would enable the UK to determine its own approach to human rights.

National Security can impede the government's ability to take measures in the interest of national security.

Legal Autonomy allows the UK to have its own human rights framework and legal mechanisms tailored to its specific needs and values.

Why Stay In The ECHR?

There are four main reasons to remain in the ECHR against ECHR critics.

International Cooperation being part of the ECHR fosters international cooperation and collaboration among member states. It provides a common legal framework for addressing human rights issues, promoting dialogue, and resolving disputes.

Access to the European Court of Human Rights member states have access to the ECtHR, where individuals and states can bring cases alleging violations of the rights protected by the convention. This provides a mechanism for redress and accountability.

Enhanced Rule of Law establishes legal mechanisms for ensuring that individuals can seek justice if their rights are violated and helps prevent arbitrary actions by the state.

European Identity seen as a way for countries to affirm their commitment to European values and principles. It contributes to a shared European identity based on the respect for human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.


The ECHR in general has a valid purpose in protecting the rights of individuals and in its original form has positive input into society. The collective agreement ensures citizens in the UK can have equal rights to those of other member nations.

The downfall of the ECHR is that Europe and the UK are in the grip of a migration crisis. The ECHR comprises of an unelected court and steadfast in its interpretation that neglects the sovereign rights of each nation. Every nation has a right to defend its borders. Because the ECHR is unwavering in its 'law' the UK has a decision whether to accept its borders are compromised by people with a possible nefarious objective or leave the ECHR and create a Bill of Human Rights suitable to the needs of the British public.

My conclusion is that Parliament has a primary objective of protecting its citizens and in light of the current ECHR situation common-sense prevails with the outcome must be to leave the ECHR with the proviso a suitable Bill is introduced.

Photo by Hanna Zhyhar on Unsplash

Category: news | Published : 12 Dec 23

Representing the people of Runcorn and Helsby Constituency. Promoted by Jason Moorcroft, Reform UK 83 Victoria St, London SW1H OHW