EU Citizens as Bargaining Chips

pexels-photo-105470Virginia Mantouvalou, Reader in Human Rights and Labour Law and Co-Director of the UCL Institute for Human Rights, looks at the implications for Brexit on the rights of EU citizens living in the UK in relation to the European Convention on Human Rights.

A few days after the referendum on EU membership of the European Union, Theresa May stated that she would not guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK. Her statements were supported by Philip Hammond, then the Foreign Secretary, who said that it would be ‘unwise’ or ‘absurd’ to guarantee rights of EU citizens to stay in the UK before negotiating with other Member States, and were also repeated in Parliament by James Brokenshire, the junior Home Office Minister. Mr Brokenshire was prepared to be slightly more reassuring, but only went so far as to say that there will be ‘no immediate change’ in the legal status of EU citizens in the UK. Many condemned this position as morally repulsive and politically problematic. In this piece I argue that the stance of the UK Government on the status of EU citizens in the UK may violate the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). European human rights law does not permit the treatment of people as bargaining chips. Continue reading

In Defence of Rights

Philippe Sands, Professor of Law at UCL and practising barrister in international law, and Helena Kennedy, a leading barrister and academic in human rights law, civil liberties and constitutional issues, were members of the 2011 Commission on a Bill of Rights. In highlights from a recent article in the London Review of Books, they discuss how human rights intersect with politics, examine the UK’s strained relationship with the European Convention on Human Rights, and question the possible motivations lying behind the proposed Bill.

In March 2011 the UK government established a Commission on a Bill of Rights, charged with investigating ‘the creation of a UK Bill of Rights that incorporates and builds on all our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, ensures that these rights continue to be enshrined in UK law, and protects and extends our liberties’.

We were appointed to the Commission by Nick Clegg. The circumstances were not auspicious, and we were concerned from the outset that our composition – all white, almost all male, almost all lawyers and London-based – would undermine our ability to speak with any legitimacy. The Conservatives had come into government committed to tearing up the Human Rights Act, an early product of the previous Labour government seen by many of the new government’s Tory supporters (and some in the media) as little more than a charter for foreign terrorists and local criminals. The Liberal Democrats, on the other hand, strongly supported the Act and the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights that it introduced into UK law. There were eight members, under the chairmanship of Leigh Lewis, a retired senior civil servant who was hopeful that we might exceed the miserably low expectations of most commentators and come up with something useful.

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An interview with the President of the European Court of Human Rights

Dean Spielmann, President of the European Court of Human Rights since September 2012, has served as a Judge in the Court for over a decade. In a recent interview with the UCL Law Society’s Silk v. Brief, highlights of which are condensed in the blog post below, he discusses the evolving role of human rights in Europe, and explores the complicated relationship between the UK and the European Convention on Human Rights.

As President, has your professional relationship with the other members of the court changed significantly? Do you now attempt to find common cause among the presiding judges?

The transition from judge to president of the European Court of Human Rights inevitably means a change in some aspect of professional relations with the other members of the Court. The President is a unique point of reference for judges in relation to certain matters, such as judicial ethics, for example. More generally, it is to the President that judges look, individually or collectively, to support and assist them in their work, to pursue the well-being of the Court and its personnel. . . . In [the Plenary] forum, the President occupies the chair but his voice and his vote are of exactly equal weight to every other judge. There is no judicial hierarchy. . . . Naturally, I endeavour to find ‘common cause’, as you put it, among my fellow judges so that the Grand Chamber gives its best answer to the questions raised in the case. . .

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