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Rishi Sunak refuses to commit to leaving ECHR

By Becky MortonPolitical reporter

Getty Images Small boat crossing the ChannelGetty Images

The Rwanda plan aims to deter people from crossing the Channel in small boats

Rishi Sunak has resisted demands to commit to leaving the European Convention on Human Rights.

Some Conservatives on the right of the party have called for the UK to pull out of the treaty, arguing it has stopped flights carrying asylum seekers taking off for Rwanda.

However, the pledge was not included in the Conservative manifesto, which was published on Tuesday.

Instead it said: “If we are forced to choose between our security and the jurisdiction of a foreign court, including the ECHR, we will always choose our security.”

The statement steers a careful course, leaving the door open to potentially leaving the treaty in the future but not committing to this.

Asked why he had not been “bold” and promised to pull out of the ECHR, Mr Sunak repeated the promise in his party’s manifesto.

He added: “I’ve been clear throughout that I believe our that our plan is compliant with all our international obligations.”

The ECHR was established in 1950 by a number of countries including the UK.

The treaty, which sets out the rights and freedoms people are entitled to in the 46 signatory countries, is overseen by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

It is separate to the European Union – so the UK remained part of both after Brexit.

In 2022 the first deportation flights to Rwanda were blocked by an injunction from the Strasbourg court, which rules on alleged breaches of the convention.

The government’s Safety of Rwanda Act, which became law in April and seeks to revive the government’s Rwanda plan, gives ministers the powers to ignore the court’s injunctions.

The aim of the policy is to deter people from coming to the UK illegally and it is central to the PM’s promise to stop people crossing the Channel in small boats.

However, no deportation flights have taken off to the east African country yet.

Mr Sunak has pledged that flights will take off in July if his party wins the election.

The Tory manifesto promises “a relentless, continual process of permanently removing illegal migrants to Rwanda with a regular rhythm of flights every month, starting this July, until the boats are stopped”.

It also says the party wants to “work with other countries to reform international laws to make them fit for an age of mass migration”.

General election 2024

The issue of leaving the ECHR splits the Conservative Party.

Former home secretary Suella Braverman and former immigration minister Robert Jenrick are among those who have called for the UK to withdraw from the treaty.

However, more centrist Tories, including some members of Mr Sunak’s cabinet, oppose this.

Meanwhile, Reform UK, which is aiming to pick up disaffected Tory voters, supports leaving the ECHR.

Tories on the right of the party will also be disappointed the manifesto includes no mention of inheritance tax.

Some had wanted to see a significant cut to the tax or a pledge for it to be scrapped altogether.

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