EU expects UK to compromise on Human Rights Act in Brexit talks

Michel Barnier, the EU's Chief Brexit Negotiator, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Brexit Secretary Ste

Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, prime minister Boris Johnson, and former Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay ahead of the opening sessions of the European Council summit at EU headquarters in Brussels. - Credit: PA

The EU is expecting the UK to lower its opposition to the Human Rights Act which could result in the two sides moving closer to a trade deal.

Brussels is expect Boris Johnson to make a major concession to salvage security ties with the EU by vowing not to tear up the Human Rights Act, according to the Guardian.

EU sources told the paper that Britain is set to relax its opposition to the legislation after insisting it would not tie its hands in any agreement on a future relationship.

The move could infuriate Tory backbenchers, in particular those tied to the anti-EU lobby the European Research Group whose former chair, Jacob Rees-Mogg, has been a vocal critic of the act and voted against it in 2012 and 2016.

The EU have said since the beginning of negotiations that cooperation on security would be conditional on a written commitment that the European Convention of Human Rights continued to be incorporated in Britain's domestic law via the Human Rights Act after Brexit.

But chief UK negotiator Lord David Frost argued such an agreement would infringe on the UK's "sovereign independence".

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Now, EU sources say the government is considering a compromise that could stop it from "materially alter[ing] the spirit" of the act.

The revelation is a key development, which offers to open up access to EU databases and other forms of crime-fighting cooperation to British law enforcement agencies. “That opens the door to get to work on the open internal security files,” said one senior diplomatic source in Brussels.

But Downing Street dismissed the claim saying it was prepared to walk away from talks next week if a deal is not in sight. 

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A UK government spokesman said: “The UK remains committed to the ECHR – we have been clear on that time and time again, including in parliament.

“We agree that cooperation with the EU should be based on our shared values of respect for fundamental rights and for the rule of law. The UK’s approach to these issues in the context of law enforcement is based on precedent for EU-third country agreements in this area.”

As recently as last month, the prime minister hinted at weakening the act in order to curb its use by migrants and asylum seekers seeking to avoid deportation.

The Conservative Party’s 2019 election manifesto had also promised a review of the legislation.

In a blog post in 2018, the prime minister’s now chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, had written that the ECHR creates “legal problems all the time”.

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