So David Cameron’s first act as newly-elected British Prime Minister – after of course the obligatory one-nation-Tory PM/prayer to St Francis – is to look to scrap the Human Rights Act. Why’s that? Well Britain never did like them foreigners having the last say. British justice was famed throughout the world for its even-handedness and reliability. To allow individuals or others to appeal to a higher authority in Europe just plain went against the grain. To subscribe to it was as good as to say that somebody needed to keep an eye on British justice. But could it be that there might be a need to keep an eye on British justice? The case of the 14 ‘hooded men’ who were subjected to torture techniques during internment in 1971 think there is. The family of Pat Finucane might think there is. But David Cameron begs to differ.
Unfortunately for him, he’s going to face a triangle of opposition. Here in our little twisted corner, the CAJ has pointed out to the British that if they do scrap the Human Rights Act they’ll be in breach of an international treaty, to wit the Good Friday Agreement: that’s because the GFA was an international treaty, signed b Britain, guaranteeing citizens here “direct access to the courts, and remedies for breach of the convention, including power for the courts to overrule assembly legislation on the grounds of inconsistency”. To scrap the Human Rights provision would make Britain “an international outlaw”.
And what about Scotland? They have declared that they are tooth-and-nail opposed to it. And Wales has also indicated that it will resist its removal.
Which places David Cameron, poor man, in an unenviable position. If he fails to scrap the Human Rights agreement, he’ll have failed in the first thing his new government has set out to do. Britain will be shown to be subject to European law, and that’s not good with an EU referendum on the horizon. If he succeeds in getting rid of the Human Rights provision, he’ll have further alienated the north of Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The resentment will be palpable and the chains that hold the United Kingdom together will have been significantly loosened. Maybe terminally.
Uneasy lies the head on the pillow in No 10 Downing Street. Tighten your seat-belts.