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Just One-in-Four Voters Back Rishi Sunak’s Threat to Quit ‘Foreign Court’ of ECHR

Only a minority of Brits back the plan pushed by right-wing Conservative MPs to quit the international court

Rishi Sunak in front of the logo of the European Court of Human Rights. Photomontage: PA Images / Alamy

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The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak this week threatened to quit the ECHR, saying that he would take Britain out of what he described as the “foreign court” if it stood in the way of his plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda.

“I do believe that border security and making sure that we can control illegal migration is more important than membership of a foreign court”, he told the Sun newspaper.

However, new polling commissioned by Byline Times this week suggests that just one-in-four (26%) voters would back leaving the European Court of Human Rights.

By contrast, 43% of those surveyed by pollsters We Think said that they would support remaining within the international court’s jurisdiction. 

A further third (32%) of voters said they don’t know what they thought about the issue either way.


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Conservative MPs have been piling pressure on the Prime Minister to back quitting the ECHR in the party’s upcoming general election manifesto, with some commentators even suggesting that the party could promise to hold a referendum on the issue.

However, unlike Brexit which ultimately gathered support from a majority of voters, the issue of Britain’s membership of the ECHR appears to be only a minority concern.

Even among Conservative supporters, support for quitting the court is still not a majority proposition, the poll suggests, with just 46% of those surveyed agreeing that the UK should leave.

Sunak has previously dampened down expectations of ever quitting the ECHR, with the Rwandan Government hinting last December that the country would pull out of their deportation agreement with the UK if they quit the ECHR.

However, Rwandan officials appeared to back away from this suggestion this week following Sunak’s latest intervention, saying that the UK’s membership of the court was a matter for Sunak’s Government.

Despite Sunak’s threat to leave the ECHR, the Prime Minister continues to insist that he believes doing so won’t be necessary, saying this week that the Government’s Rwanda scheme is “in compliance” with all international conventions the UK is already signed up to.

However, the UK’s Supreme Court ruled last year that the Government’s plan would not be in compliance with international law, due to their assessment that Rwanda is not a safe country.


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The Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner last month savaged what it described as the “dangerous” Rwanda scheme, which it singled out as an example of states “dismantling collective human rights safeguards [and] eroding legal and democratic checks that protect all our rights”.

Human rights groups have also criticised plans to deport people to the country, where political opponents of the country’s dictator Paul Kagame continue to be targeted by the regime.

However, last month a Conservative peer defended the scheme, saying that the country was indeed a “perfectly safe country” as long as you “don’t oppose the Government”.

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