In government row over ECHR, UK’s Cleverly says no need to leave

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – British foreign minister James Cleverly knocked back a suggestion by another government minister on Sunday that leaving the European Convention of Human Rights was needed so the country could better tackle illegal immigration.

In a growing row over how best to achieve one of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s priorities to “stop the boats” or end the arrival of illegal migrants, trade minister Kemi Badenoch told the Sunday Times the idea of quitting the ECHR was “definitely something that needs to be on the table”.

It was yet another sign of tension at the governing Conservative Party’s annual conference, an event Sunak hopes will revitalise his premiership, but which some in his top team of ministers want to use to show their potential to replace him if he loses an election expected next year.

Sunak has ruled out leaving the ECHR, a treaty agreed by almost every nation in Europe after World War Two, saying Britain could curb the arrival of illegal migrants without having to quit.

But some in his party, including interior minister Suella Braverman, say the international conventions governing refugees were not fit for purpose, and only served to encourage activist lawyers to block deportations.

Cleverly told a fringe event organised by think tank Onward at the Conservative conference, he did not “feel that in order to achieve what we need to achieve, to protect our borders, we are necessitated to leave the ECHR”.

“We have demonstrated success. And I have no doubt that the decisions that we have made are completely within the boundaries of international law. So you’re saying it’s an emerging question. Only because journalists keep raising it.”

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)