The legal effect of repealing the Human Rights Act 1998

Posted by admin on March 21, 2013 under European Law, Human Rights Law | Be the First to Comment

‘Bringing rights home’ has been a term used in the media for quite some time by politicians in favour of creating a British Bill of Rights which is to replace the much controversial Human Rights Act. The British Home Secretary Theresa May recently said in a statement “we need to stop human rights legislation interfering with our ability to fight crime and control immigration” she continued, “that’s why, as our last manifesto promised, the next Conservative government will scrap the Human Rights Act, and it’s why we should also consider very carefully our relationship with the European Court of Human Rights and the convention it enforces”.

Such a radical move to repeal an Act often dubbed to be of ‘constitutional’ importance by many academics will have a much far reaching effect on the British legal system as well as the economy. Human rights and the European Union go part and parcel which means that Britain will need to leave the Union should they repeal the controversial Act as per Ms May’s statement. The European Union has integrated much of international law into our domestic legal system already, as a start the European Court of Justice which has many times developed important principles of law. A reshuffle will indeed be in urgent need should Britain opt out of Europe and the Human Rights Act. Such drastic actions appear to be opposed by the judiciary as Lady Hale, the UK’s most celebrated female judge stated that the UK would “regret” repealing the Act and continued to say that the only benefit of such a change would make be that it becomes “easier to get rid of certain unpopular foreigners”.

A financial cost in a time of a recession

The European Union is no doubt the world’s biggest trade block and the United Kingdom’s most important trade partner. It has been a trend the EU accounts for a majority of UK exports and also a major source for imports into the country. Leaving the Union will automatically rule Britain as an outsider subject to taxes and duties on various imports and exports. This in effect is likely to reduce the economy’s trade deficit and put the government in an ever harder financial back-foot. This consequence does not appear to be a rational risk to take in the face of minimal economic growth and at a time where Britain could boost trade relations between other major EU partners.

The question then of whether to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with another piece of domestically drafted legislation becomes and ever larger and more complicated debate. It would appear that strong opposition for the Act is coming from the Conservative party while the judiciary are in favour of working with the international courts in providing British citizens with fundamental human rights. A final point and some food for thought on this debate would be to reinstate the fact that the original European Convention on Human Rights was pioneered by British politicians and drafted by British lawyers, which is to say that Britain had a great influence on the operation of the Treaty in the first place.