David Davis comments on Theresa May’s speech on the European Union


Today the Home Secretary Theresa May gave a speech on the UK’s membership of the European Union.

While discussing the UK’s membership of international institutions, Mrs May stated that there was no clear case for remaining a signatory of the European Convention of Human Rights. Mrs May also claimed that the Charter of Fundamental Rights did not pose the same problems as those posed by the Convention.

In response to the Home Secretary’s comments, Sir David Davis said:

“Theresa May is just wrong to take the approach that we should abandon the Convention and embrace the Charter.

The fact is that the Convention and the Charter both cover similar ground. But the UK is not bound by the decisions of the European court of human rights (ECHR), and is only obliged to take the Strasbourg court’s rulings “into consideration”.

On the other hand, the ECJ is specifically empowered to provide “more extensive protection” than that granted by the ECHR. Indeed, in recent years the ECJ has expanded many rights beyond the interpretation of the ECHR*.

Put simply, the ECJ has the authority to instruct us, whereas the ECHR merely advises. Indeed, after the Parliamentary debate on prisoner votes brought by Jack Straw and me, and following the ‘Brighton declaration’ of 2012, the ECHR has largely focussed on serious violations and major points of interpretation, showing far more restraint in its judgments, and being a far better protector of fundamental rights as a result.

It is incomprehensible how the Home Secretary can suggest that abandoning the Convention while at the same time remaining subject to the Charter is in the UK’s interests.