Should Britain leave the ECHR?

Jess Gill

February 8, 2023

Jess Gill, IEA Editoral Intern argues Yes…

The tedious battle of Brexit has amplified how much sovereignty matters to the British people. It should be a basic right that the British people should have the ultimate say over who can or can’t come into the country. In order to empower the British people’s voice, the next step towards freedom should be to leave the ECHR. 

The Strasbourg court has deviated from the purpose on which it was established and has now taken an activist approach. The ECHR has gone beyond its original powers of protecting the utmost fundamental principles of human rights and now focuses its time on countering democratically established immigration policies. From an institution that was established as an ultimate check on abuse of state power, it has now abused these powers to stand against the democratic demands of the British people.

Those who are arriving at our border tend not to be those in genuine need. The depiction of desperate women and children from war torn countries arriving at our shore is far from the truth. According to The Home Office, 90% of migrants who have crossed the channel were male. Furthermore, 85% of those who arrived on boats in the last twelve months are from Albania, a country which is a member of NATO.  

As Nigel Farage commented: “We’re being laughed at by Albanian criminal gangs posting on TikTok.” The current system does not help those who are most vulnerable and instead prioritises too much time and effort on economic migrants who are taking the resources of those who sincerely need it. 

Furthermore, the British taxpayer is coerced into paying for those who cannot respect the laws of the country. The Home Office reports that the 37,000 asylum seekers in hotels costs the taxpayer £4.7 million per day. This problem cannot keep on building up and must be dealt with. Even if Rwanda is not the solution to our border crisis, leaving the ECHR would give the UK more freedom to deal with the border crisis without being blocked by activist lawyers.

Harrison Griffiths, IEA Communications Officer argues No…

The European Convention on Human Rights is a flawed document which provides meager protections for fundamental rights like free speech and property rights. If opponents of the ECHR wanted to strengthen these protections in statute and common law, I would wholeheartedly support them. Unfortunately, this is not their aim.

The desire to withdraw from the ECHR often stems from frustrations over court injunctions delaying deportations. In effect, these frustrations are arguments over the rigorous standards of due process laid out in the ECHR. Examples include Article 13’s protection of an effective legal remedy for human rights abuses or Article 6’s strict presumption of each person’s innocence before proven guilty. Do opponents of the ECHR really suggest weakening those protections? 

Due process rights are vital to defending individuals, legal residents or otherwise, from arbitrary government power. Those rights should, as far as possible, be a constant check on the government’s power. If the government dilutes due process rights whenever it frustrates a particular policy goal, it will defeat the object of having those rights in the first place.

Another argument made by opponents of the ECHR is that the convention deprives Britain of its sovereign right to decide its own immigration laws. As with the argument over sovereignty during the EU referendum, this is not quite accurate. 

So long as the UK has the right to withdraw from the ECHR (just as it retained the right to trigger Article 50 as a member of the EU) it retains ultimate sovereignty. 

Furthermore, the ECHR does not override Parliamentary sovereignty. Parliament has the right to accept a declaration of incompatibility from a court to amend or override elements of the ECHR, and has the right to withdraw from the convention’s institutions without diluting its protections.

The ECHR’s protections for due process provides a check on government power. Regardless of your views on immigration, it sets a dangerous precedent to have the government dilute that check because it makes enacting certain policies inconvenient. Likewise, the ECHR does not undermine Britain’s ability to form its own border policy: Parliament still retains ultimate sovereignty.


  • Jess Gill

    Jess Gill is a British libertarian political content creator. She is the Creative Director of Reasoned U.K. Jess creates political and economics videos on TikTok and YouTube where she has gained a following of over 30,000.

  • Harrison Griffiths

    Harrison is Communications Officer at the Institute of Economic Affairs.

Written by Jess Gill

Jess Gill is a British libertarian political content creator. She is the Creative Director of Reasoned U.K. Jess creates political and economics videos on TikTok and YouTube where she has gained a following of over 30,000.

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