Diluting UK human rights laws would threaten post-Brexit security, MPs told

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Any move to dilute human rights laws in the UK would threaten the post-Brexit deal on justice and security cooperation, MPs have been told.

New extradition, data sharing and law enforcement cooperation arrangements are underpinned by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), academics told a Westminster committee.

The justice and law experts cautioned the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that the EU would likely move to suspend those arrangements if the UK stepped away from the ECHR.

The convention is translated into UK domestic law under the Human Rights Act.

Former court of appeal judge Sir Peter Gross is leading an examination of how the Act is being interpreted in UK courts.

On Wednesday, SDLP MP Claire Hanna asked a panel of experts giving evidence to the committee to what extent the ECHR underpinned the new UK/EU justice arrangements.

Colin Murray, a public law expert at Newcastle University, said the arrangements were based on an alignment on human rights laws.

“You take this brick out then this cooperation win that has come as part of the agreement will simply fall away,” he said.

Mr Murray said the new suspect surrender arrangements that had replaced the European Arrest Warrant made very specific mention of the ECHR and its operation with UK domestic law.

“The EU would not allow this system to continue to function if the UK wasn’t fully implementing the European Convention on Human Rights within domestic law, or at least as fully as it is now,” he said.

Professor Steve Peers, from the University of Essex, said termination of the new justice arrangements would not happen automatically if the UK denounced the ECHR but he predicted the EU would face political pressure to respond.

“We can’t be absolutely certain they would terminate it but I think there would be a lot of political pressure,” he said.

The professor said the UK/EU future relationship deal had delivered close cooperation on extradition, data exchange and law enforcement cooperation.

“I think it is very difficult for this close cooperation to survive if a third country withdraws from the European Convention on Human Rights, which forms a very important benchmark for the European Union in terms of close relations with third countries,” he said.

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